Feb 6, 2020 - Economy & Business

New York aims to break brokers' stranglehold on rentals

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Renting an apartment in New York is ridiculously difficult and expensive, in no small part because of the dominance of a curious tribe of people known as "rental brokers." As the NYT explains, these creatures "have near absolute control over apartment listings, viewing appointments and leases."

Driving the news: In a widely applauded yet unexpected move, New York state regulators have decreed that renters can no longer be charged broker's fees.

How it works: Rental brokers charge astonishing sums for simply bringing together landlords and renters. The standard fee is 15% of the first year's rent, payable up front — that's $6,300 on an apartment costing $3,500 per month.

  • Brokers can charge that much because while they're hired by landlords, the landlords don't pay them, and are therefore price-insensitive. Meanwhile the renters, who have to make the payment, have no real choice but to pay whatever the broker charges.

What's next: If landlords want to continue to use brokers, they will have to pay them themselves. Brokers are warning that the broker's fee will then end up showing up in higher rent. But now landlords will have a clear financial incentive to use cheaper brokers. That should help drive prices down across the industry.

Go deeper: The new housing crisis

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,929,312 — Total deaths: 357,781 — Total recoveries — 2,385,926Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,709,996 — Total deaths: 101,002 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Business: Louisiana senator says young people are key to reopening the economy —U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 14 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter, round two

President Trump is escalating his response to Twitter’s fact check of his recent tweets about mail-in voting, issuing an executive order that's designed to begin limiting social media's liability protections. Dan digs in with Axios' Margaret Harding McGill.

Go deeper: Twitter vs. Trump... vs. Twitter

37 mins ago - Politics & Policy