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Brenner and Co. v. Perl

Decided: February 2, 1962.


Conford, Freund and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Freund, J.A.D.


Plaintiff Brenner and Company (Brenner), a real estate broker, instituted this action to recover a $2,700 commission allegedly due by written agreement on account of the sale of defendants' home, and alternatively to recover damages for wrongful interference with its business opportunity. Summary judgment was granted for defendants on both counts on the basis of affidavits and depositions. R.R. 4:58.

Defendants Herman Perl and Ruth, his wife, owned a home at 148 Lenox Terrace, Maplewood, N.J. On December 2, 1959 they signed a multiple listing agreement of six months duration with plaintiff as listing broker. The agreement was in a printed form and authorized the sale of the residence premises for the sum of $53,000. It gave to all the brokers of the Board of Realtors of the Oranges and Maplewood "the exclusive right to sell * * * the property * * * at the price and on terms as therein stated * * *." The Perls agreed "to pay to the listing broker, or to the active broker member of said Board making the sale * * * a commission on said price * * *, or on any other price * * * accepted * * * if the

property is sold * * * by an active broker member of said Board, by me the owner, or through any other source before this agreement expires." The commission rate was set at 6%. The contract also provided that "no terms or conditions exist other than those contained herein."

On February 2, 1960 Helen Phillipson, a saleswoman for Brenner, accompanied Mrs. Myron Denholtz to the Lenox Terrace property. According to Mrs. Phillipson's deposition, the two women "spent quite a while there" and Mrs. Denholtz "was very interested in the house." The following day Mrs. Denholtz, her husband Dr. Denholtz, and Dr. Denholtz's mother all inspected the property. Mrs. Phillipson stated, "they both loved the house and so did Mrs. Denholtz's mother-in-law." The Denholtzs, however, did not make an offer at that time because they thought the house was overpriced. Thereafter, Mrs. Phillipson took Mrs. Denholtz to other homes. On every such occasion the Perl property was discussed, but Mrs. Phillipson did not again take the Denholtzs to the Perl home. Mrs. Phillipson stated that the Denholtzs "knew the Perls quite well, personally, socially knew a lot about them and they said that he would never get that price and they'd have to take a lot less for it."

On February 24 the Perls executed a price change form authorizing the members of the Board of Realtors to reduce the asking price on the Lenox Terrace property to $49,500. Mrs. Phillipson told Mrs. Denholtz of this change on March 31.

Milton Lowe, Brenner's sales manager, stated in his deposition that in April he presented an offer of $46,000 to Mr. Perl on behalf of Dr. Milton Block. Mr. Perl agreed to accept that offer only if Brenner would reduce its commission from $2,760 to $2,000. Brenner refused since the reduction of commission would have been contrary to the rules and regulations of the Board of Realtors. Mrs. Dorothy Baumgarten, another Brenner sales agent, corroborated this bid and pointed out that Dr. Block at one point

had offered only $45,000. It was agreed by all the parties that a considerable number of people inspected the Perl property during its listing of six months.

Mrs. Perl testified that after the Block negotiation Dr. Denholtz stopped at defendants' home, stated that he happened to be in the neighborhood, and inquired as to whether the house was still for sale and if so at what price. Mrs. Perl told him that the house was still for sale but did not recall if the price was $53,000 or $49,500. He made no offer, nor was there any further discussion of price.

Lowe stated that on June 3, the day after the expiration of the multiple listing agreement, Mr. Perl telephoned him to inquire whether he would be obliged to pay a commission if he sold the property to someone who had been shown the house during the period of the listing. He replied that he believed the Perls would be liable. Perl informed him that he was going to place an advertisement in the newspaper and try to sell the house himself. Later that day, Perl telegraphed Brenner confirming that he had removed his home from listing, that it would no longer be available for sale through brokers and that he was going to attempt to sell the house himself. On June 7 Lowe dispatched a letter to the Perls advising them of the names of certain persons (including the Denholtzs and Dr. Block) to whom Brenner personnel had shown the property and informing them that Brenner expected to receive a 6% commission in the event any sale was made to them.

Defendant Herman Perl, a licensed real estate broker himself, although not a member of the Board of Realtors of any community, acknowledged rejecting Dr. Block's $46,000 offer. He stated that he advertised the Lenox Terrace property for sale in a Sunday newspaper of June 5, 1960. On the same day, Dr. and Mrs. Denholtz appeared at Perls' front door with a newspaper in hand and said they saw that the house was for sale. They told Perl that a Brenner ...

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