Conflicts of Interest: Unveiling the Dual Role of Commercial Real Estate Giants

by King White, on Sep 8, 2023 9:00:00 AM

In the complex world of commercial real estate, a handful of global firms wield substantial influence in the industry. These firms, known for their expertise in connecting landlords with tenants, occupy a unique position that raises questions about potential conflicts of interest. This blog explores the intricate dynamics and ethical concerns surrounding these dual roles and the impacts they can have on both landlords and tenants.

The dual role dilemma for real estate firms that represent tenants and landlords

At first glance, traditional dual agency commercial real estate firms seem to offer a valuable service by acting as intermediaries between landlords seeking tenants and tenants searching for suitable spaces. However, this dual role poses a dilemma as these firms represent both sides of the equation. On one hand, they are trusted advisors to landlords, helping them maximize their property’s profitability. On the other hand, they assist tenants in finding spaces that align with their business needs. The question arises: Can these firms truly serve both sides impartially without encountering conflicts of interest?

Navigating the grey area in dual agency real estate firms

Favoring Landlords

Dual agency commercial real estate firms often have strong relationships with landlords, as they bring in a steady stream of potential tenants. This closeness could lead to a bias toward landlords’ interests, inadvertently impacting the advice given to tenants. For example, the firm might steer tenants toward properties represented by landlords who are longstanding clients, potentially disregarding better-suited alternatives.

Balancing Transparency

Transparency is crucial in maintaining trust. While these firms are legally obligated to disclose their dual roles, they often don’t explain or disclose the conflict to the tenant to avoid losing their client. Clients should be informed about the potential biases that may arise from this dual representation, ensuring they can make well-informed decisions.

Potential Conflicts

The potential for conflicts of interest can manifest in several ways. For instance, these firms might prioritize properties with higher commissions, rather than focusing on tenants’ best interests. This could lead to tenants paying more than they should or overlooking better deals elsewhere.

Ethical concerns with dual agency real estate firms

Fiduciary Duty

The fiduciary duty that real estate professionals owe to their clients can become murky when representing both sides. The interests of landlords and tenants can clash, creating situations where firms must choose whose interests to prioritize.

Inadequate Advocacy

Advocacy becomes compromised when the focus shifts from advocating for tenants to mediating between tenants and landlords. A tenant’s need for aggressive negotiations might be undermined by the desire to maintain relationships with landlords.

Fair Market Knowledge

Firms’ access to market knowledge can also create an imbalance. They might have insights into deals that tenants aren’t aware of, giving the impression that they’re withholding information to benefit landlords.


Navigating conflicts of interest in the commercial real estate industry requires vigilance, transparency and ethical integrity. As the industry continues to evolve, dual agency real estate firms must adopt robust policies and practices to mitigate potential conflicts and ensure that both landlords and tenants receive fair representation. Clients, too, should approach these relationships with a critical eye, demanding transparency and advocating for their best interests, or make a decision to hire firms that exclusively represent tenants like Site Selection Group. If you are looking for an unbiased advisor, please contact one of our tenant representation experts to help you.

Topics:Corporate Real Estate



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