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My broker wrecked my flatscreen. Can I deduct the cost from his commission?

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Q. While my broker was staging my apartment to sell, he accidentally knocked my flatscreen TV off the wall. It's toast! He said it wasn't hung up right and refuses to pay for it. I want to take it out of the commission. Is that OK? 

A. This is a tricky situation, but withholding your broker’s commission is not necessarily your best option, our experts say

“Acknowledging that we only know one side of the story, I am appalled that the agent wouldn't volunteer to cover the cost of the TV,” says broker Douglas Heddings of Heddings Property Groupwho recommends first calling the broker’s manager to try to fix the situation and, if that fails, consulting an attorney to weigh in on your situation. 

Either way, you’d be well advised to resolve this before finalizing a sale, which is when you’d pay the commission. “It is small disputes like this that can blow up closings and end up costing everyone substantially more in fees and time than the actual loss warrants,” says co-op and condo attorney Dean Roberts of Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus.

If none of that works, there’s always Small Claims Court, says Roberts. 

As for insurance, it’s unlikely the damage is covered by a standard homeowner’s policy unless you have an “all-risk” contract, and even then your deductible would apply, says apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage.“Note that 'all-risk’ is always in quotes because not everything is covered,” he adds.

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Dear Ms. Demeanor: A delicate problem with my broker


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