After years of uncertainty and fact-based decisions, the Appellate Division, First Department, in a thoughtful decision authored by Justice Rolando Acosta, clarified the guidelines for earning a real estate broker’s commission in Manhattan and the Bronx. This article devotes considerable time to Acosta’s decision and examines the controlling case law in the other departments. Our goal is to guide brokers and practitioners when doing business throughout the state of New York.


In SPRE Realty v. Dienst,1 the court announced guidelines for the entitlement to a brokerage commission where the broker did not negotiate the final contract. According to Acosta, these guidelines were necessary because the “litigants, and the bar, deserve a greater level of certainty…to reduce the confusion that has arisen from the more nebulous terminology”2 of prior case law.

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