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Broker’s fee of nearly $20K under probe by state

State authorities are probing a Manhattan real estate deal that led to a tenant forking over nearly $20,000 for a rent-stabilized apartment.

The state Department of State, which licenses real estate agents, is investigating the transaction, a spokeswoman said.

The Post revealed that Ari Wilford, with City Wide Apartments in Manhattan, asked for the sky-high fee to rent a one-bedroom unit on the Upper West Side that was going for $1,725 a month. The tenant said he paid $19,500 — after negotiating $500 off — reasoning that the regulated rental made sense in the long run.

The charge was far above the typical broker’s fee of one month’s rent or 15% of a year’s rent. The state doesn’t set limits on the fees but says agents cannot charge “exorbitant commissions that have no reasonable relationship to the work involved in earning the commission.”

City Councilman Keith Powers, who represents parts of midtown and the Upper East Side, blasted the “egregiously high” fees saying they “hurt our city’s affordable housing goals and perpetually lock New Yorkers out of the market.”

Councilman Keith Powers took issue with the "egregiously high" fees.
Councilman Keith Powers took issue with the “egregiously high” fees.

“As we rebuild, I will be working with my colleagues in the council to address this issue by making it easier for tenants to get an apartment,” he said.

Other tenants told The Post that Wilford and City Wide also demanded steep fees.

One Manhattan woman said Wilford wanted $8,000 in 2020 to lease a rent-stabilized one-bedroom for $1,985, doing little work to get the fee.

“Ari, to be clear, wasn’t even in New York. Because of COVID, he relocated,” the woman said, adding he merely handled the paperwork. She ended up paying $7,000.

Another apartment seeker said Wilford asked $10,000 in 2019 for a regulated one bedroom in Gramercy Park priced at $2,400 a month.

Ari Wolford.
Ari Wolford.

“He kept calling the apartment a unicorn,” said the prospective tenant who didn’t pursue the deal.

Wilford did not immediately return a request for comment. Michael Jacobs, the head of the agency, defended the fees.

“Brokers provide great value to their clients and have been working harder than ever at a time where demand is surging, supply is low, and finding a home in New York City has become more challenging than ever.  These factors together with the hyper-competitive process for getting a rent-stabilized apartment and the current system surrounding these units are what lead to these high fees that we’re seeing,” he said in a statement.

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