The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined there was a question of fact whether defendant law firm was acting as a consultant in matters related to distressed home loans such that any related agreement to arbitrate was void pursuant to Real Properly Law 265-b. Supreme Court had granted the law firm’s motion to compel arbitration:
Real Property Law § 265-b governs the conduct of distressed property consultants. “Distressed property consultant” or “consultant” is defined as “an individual or a corporation, partnership, limited liability company or other business entity that, directly or indirectly, solicits or undertakes employment to provide consulting services to a homeowner for compensation or promise of compensation with respect to a distressed home loan or a potential loss of the home for nonpayment of taxes” … . A consultant does not include, inter alia, “an attorney admitted to practice in the state of New York when the attorney is directly providing consulting services to a homeowner in the course of his or her regular legal practice” … . Real Property Law § 265-b further provides, in part, that “[a]ny provision in a contract which attempts or purports to require arbitration of any dispute arising under this section shall be void at the option of the homeowner” … .
Here, the plaintiff raised a question of fact as to whether the Donado defendants directly provided consulting services to the plaintiff in the course of the Donado defendants’ regular legal practice … . The plaintiff asserted in his affidavit, among other things, that he never met with an attorney from Donado Law Firm, P.C. … . Inasmuch as the plaintiff raised a question of fact as to whether the Donado defendants were consultants within the meaning of former Real Property Law § 265-b[e][i], there is a question of fact as to whether the plaintiff would be allowed to void the arbitration provision … , and a hearing is required. Ventura v Donado Law Firm, P.C., 2020 NY Slip Op 00888, Second Dept 2-5-20