Just this month, I had several new clients who inadvertently put themselves in a precarious position.
What happened was they signed a tenant representation agreement with a realtor because they thought this would be in their best interests. What a tenant representation agreement says is that the broker will exclusively represent the tenant when he’s looking for space to lease. However, they soon found themselves thoroughly dissatisfied with the service they were getting.
And unfortunately, at that point they felt locked into the contract because they already signed it. That was the case even though they weren’t paying the agent. And without this happening, the agreement is lacking “consideration” and, as such, is most likely unenforceable.
The reality is that a realtor who’s a tenant broker gets his fees paid by the landlord. And if you’re not paying him, nothing is stopping you from working with other agents. If you like a realtor, you can agree to work with him exclusively for a specified period. However, this should be a verbal agreement only. For example, you can work with an agent you like for 30 days, and if you’re not happy with him after this time, you’ll have the freedom to cut him loose because you’re not locked into a legally binding contract.
It’s important to always retain the flexibility to fire an agent if he’s not working hard for you.
Also, without a signed contract restricting your ability to work with other agents, you’re free to look at all the buildings all you want. And, you won’t feel pressured into having to go with one location over another.
In short, never sign a tenant representation agreement!