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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Housing > Landlord-Tenant > Finding a Place and Moving In

Using a Referral Agent or Real Estate Broker


Both referral agents and brokers must be licensed. Referral agents work under the supervision of a broker.

Using a referral agent

A referral agent can direct you to websites and other sources of information. In addition, the agent, with the approval of the real estate broker who employs them, can refer you to the broker or other agents. The agent must follow specific regulations (see N.J.A.C. 11:5-6.5.). A copy of these regulations has to be given to customers upon request and posted in the office. The agent must provide a written contract that explains what you must do to receive services, what services are provided, the fee charged, the term of the contract, the policy for refunds, and that the New Jersey Real Estate Commission licenses the business. The agency has to keep a copy of the contract for one year.

The agent cannot advertise or refer you to an address that does not exist, or where they do not have the consent of the owner or a representative of the owner. In addition, the agent must check a unit’s availability every three days and must not refer you someplace that has not been checked in the last seven. If you ask when the unit was last verified as available, they have to tell you when they last checked.

The agent cannot charge you more than $25 until you rent a property by using their services unless:

  • The money is deposited in the real estate broker’s account until the services explained in the contract are completed; or
  • The agent you are working with has posted a cash security with an escrow agent approved by the Real Estate Commission and totaling an amount approved by the Commission.

Using a real estate broker

Apartment finder or rental locator agents, discussed above, only give you referrals. Real estate brokers will not ask you for money unless they are going to take you to see a specific apartment. Any lease for a year or more prepared by the broker must contain a “three-day attorney review” clause. This means that if both parties enter into a lease contract, the contract becomes final after that deadline, unless an attorney for one of the parties cancels the contract by submitting a “notice of disapproval.”  In counting the time period, you do not count Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays. The regulations state that the attorney must send the notice to the broker by certified mail, or by delivering it personally.  A “notice of disapproval” will be effective upon sending. Cite: N.J.A.C. 11:5-6.2(g). In addition, case law supports that a faxed or emailed notice may also be sufficient, but you will want to have proof that it was received by the deadline.

What can I do if my rights have been violated?

If you believe your rights have been violated, seek legal assistance for a full evaluation of your rights and options.

The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance accepts complaints about real estate agents and brokers. For information about making a complaint, visit their Real Estate Complaints/Inquiries page.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination applies to real estate agents, brokers, and their employees.

The Law prohibits discrimination in housing based on actual or perceived:

  • Race or color
  • Religion or creed
  • National origin, nationality, or ancestry
  • Sex, pregnancy, or breastfeeding
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Disability
  • Marital status or domestic partnership/civil union status
  • Liability for military service
  • Familial status (having minor children)
  • Source of lawful income used for rental or mortgage payments (includes rental or mortgage assistance)

If your rights have been violated under the Law Against Discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Division of Civil Rights.