Where no time is fixed within which the broker must procure a purchaser, the principal may, after the lapse of a reasonable time,8 terminate the broker's authority and relieve himself from liability, unless such action is taken in bad faith for the purpose of depriving the broker of the fruits of his labor at the time such labor was about to prove effectual.9 But if the broker fails after a reasonable time to procure a purchaser and the agency is terminated in good faith, it matters not that what the broker has done proves of use and benefit to the principal.10 And where the property remains in the broker's hands for a long time unsold, the owner has a right to terminate the broker's employment.11
In Milne v. Kleb, 44 N. J.Eq. 384 (1888), the court suggested that one year might be a fair limit to the agency where no time is fixed. We do not say it was so decided, but the court endeavors to compare the situation with what is required by the statute of frauds,12 and uses these words, which are suggestive if nothing more: "Moreover, where power to sell land is given by parol it is usually given to serve a temporary purpose with an expectation on the part of the donor that it will be speedily exercised, and it would, therefore, seem entirely reasonable that the rule prescribed by the statute of frauds concerning parol contracts not to be performed within a year from the time they are made, should, by analogy, be adopted as the rule limiting the duration of such powers. Especially should this be so where it appears that neither party to the power had, for more than a year after it was granted, done anything which would indicate to the other that he regarded it as still subsisting."
7 Cadlgan v. Crabtree, 179 Mass. 480 (1901); 8. c. on further appeal, 186 Mass. 7 (1904 ).
8 "Where no time is expressed, the law will affix the limit of a reasonable time; but it will not extend an express limit." Emery v. Atlanta Exch., 88 Ga. 326 (1891).
9 Donovan v. Weed, 182 N. Y. 43 (1905); Turner v. Snyder, 132 Mo. App. 322 (1908): Moore v. Boehm, 45 Misc. 622 (N. Y. 1904); Rand v. Cronkrite, 64 111. App. 224 (1896).
10 Donovan v. Weed, supra. See also Sec. 101.
นน Van Siclen v. Herbst, 30 App. Div. 265 (N. Y. 1898).
The most that this case can be authority for is that the reasonable time implied by law should not be longer than a year. No definite time, however, can be laid down as constituting a reasonable time for all cases. If that were so, there would be no need to call it a "reasonable time," as it could then be called a "definite time." What would be a reasonable time in one case would not be in another. In the matter of the sale of the ordinary dwelling-house for which there is more or less call, a few months might be said to be a reasonable time within which the broker should procure a customer. On the other hand, a reasonable time in which to sell a large office building, for which there would be but few purchasers, should certainly be longer than the time allowed for a sale of an ordinary dwelling. The subject could be further discussed, but we should in the end have to return to the statement that what is a reasonable time depends altogether on the particular situation at hand. Enough has been said to illustrate the idea.
12 See Sec. 24-26 supra.