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Should my broker have warned me about the rehab center next door?

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Q: My daughter just rented an apartment in Manhattan and to my dismay I discovered on move-in day that there was a chemical dependency residential treatment program right across the street. The broker didn't say anything about this but took an almost $6,000 fee. Do I have any recourse?

A: In a word: no. Your broker was under no obligation whatsoever to tell you about a nearby rehab center, say our experts.

"Caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware," says Warburg broker Shirley Hackel. "The agent is not obligated to point out that a residential treatment program is on the block. It's entirely possible that the agent was totally unfazed by it." While landlords are required to disclose things like health hazards, building violations, and flood zone status, nearby chemical dependency centers don't make the cut.

And from a legal perspective, you're not likely to have any kind of recourse unless you specifically asked about the presence of a nearby rehab center and the broker lied, says Jeffrey S. Reich, a real estate attorney with Schwartz, Sladkus, Reich, Greenberg, Atlas LLP. "[The client] could have easily checked the surroundings and determined whether there were any facilities which were not to her liking," he adds. (In an apartment hunt, Google is always your friend.)

"By signing the lease, you indicated your satisfaction with the apartment, and the broker legitimately earned their commission," adds Sotheby's International Realty broker Gordon Roberts, who points out that even though you're not thrilled, the rehab center next door isn't necessarily cause for concern. "The good news is that several studies have not found a correlation between crime and substance abuse rehab centers," says Roberts. "There are higher crime rates around businesses such as pawn shops, convenience stores, liquor stores, and bars, because, to paraphrase our hometown bank robber, Willy Sutton, 'That's where the money is'."

Instead of fretting about the detoxing patients next door, consider this a lesson for next time. "You'll likely want to find a new broker, who will be more proactive and sensitive to your needs next time you're looking for an apartment," says Reich. And as always, do a little research on your own, just in case.


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