Yet another allegation has been leveled at local real estate titan Houlihan Lawrence in the ongoing lawsuit against the company.
The lawsuit, filed this past summer, alleges that Houlihan Lawrence engages in highly profitable “dual-agency” transactions, in which a realtor or agents within the same realty firm represent both the seller and buyer in a transaction. The practice is not common in the industry at large, and state and industry officials have pointed out it can lead to conflicts of interest where the best price for one client might not be in the best interests of the other.
The suit argues that Houlihan Lawrence not only engages in dual-agency far more often than the rest of the industry, but that it has fostered a corporate culture to purposefully obfuscate its role as a dual-agent among its clients, going so far as providing bonuses to realtors who keep listings “in-house.”
Houlihan Lawrence denies any wrongdoing and has filed a motion to dismiss the case, providing signed disclosures the firm says proves plaintiffs were made aware of the terms of their brokering arrangements. In an opposition motion filed November 20, attorneys for the plaintiffs Boies Schiller Flexner LLP claim to show that the undated signatures were in fact copied and pasted from a different, pre-marked form.
“Rarely does a defendant’s motion to dismiss bolster the plaintiffs’ case,” the opposition motion reads. It goes on to reassert plaintiff’s argument that the realtor impermissibly pre-marks forms to acquire dual-agency consent without proper disclosure, and engages in “myriad other deceptive and unfair business practices” to profit from such contracts.
Houlihan Lawrence responded to the allegations with a written statement, telling real estate news site Inman, “For more than 130 years, Houlihan Lawrence has had a reputation of responsible business practices and integrity. We believe this lawsuit is meritless and intend to vigorously defend against plaintiffs’ claims.”
As plaintiffs are seeking class-action status, this lawsuit against Westchester’s largest realtor has the potential to affect a large number of local homeowners. Westchester Magazine will continue to post updates as the suit progresses.