ORLANDO, Fla. — The Florida Attorney General’s office is taking legal action against a major real estate company it claims swindled homeowners with quick cash offers.
Action 9′s Todd Ulrich first reported on the company over a year ago, and in a recent investigation, Ulrich found dozens of local consumers signed contracts with MV Realty not realizing it was a 40-year deal to sell their house or they would have to pay thousands of dollars in penalties.
The state’s lawsuit could mean big refunds for homeowners and demands the company change its deceptive practices.
The attorney general’s complaint takes direct aim at MV Realty and its Homeowner Benefit Program, calling it a “complex and deceptive scheme that attempts to skirt existing Florida Law with the goal of swindling consumers.”
“Did you feel trapped?” Urich asked.
“I did. I really did,” Carla Turman replied.
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Turman told Ulrich that she thought the free money offered by MV Realty was a payday loan and didn’t understand the contract. Then the company filed a lien against Turman’s home when she tried to sell it on her own. The contract gave MV Realty the exclusive right to sell her house for 40 years and cancelling the deal would cost thousands.
“They said I had to use them,” Turman explained.
In its complaint, the attorney general calls the cash offers and contracts “misleading and confusing.”
Action 9′s investigation found MV Reality filed lawsuits against 62 homeowners, like Turman, in central Florida, who tried to sell homes using someone else. The state’s complaint called those liens “unfair and unconscionable.”
Action 9 was part of a joint investigation by Cox Media Group stations across the country that uncovered similar complaints in seven states where homeowners had no idea what they had signed or how much it would cost.
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“I didn’t see no contract. I didn’t see anything,” said a homeowner near Atlanta.
The attorney general’s investigation found homeowners didn’t understand the free money offers and its court filing called MV Realty’s telemarketing and sales pitch “deceptive and abusive.”
“For homeowners who signed those contracts, this attorney general lawsuit is a big deal?” Ulrich asked.
“It is, the attorney general is saying, we don’t care Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner if you signed it, it’s an illegal contract,” real estate attorney Karen Wonsetler said.
Wonsetler told Ulrich that if the attorney general’s complaint is successful, it would force MV Realty to pay back money that was wrongfully collected, and MV Realty wouldn’t be able to enforce existing contracts for liens against homeowners. Liens that deprived homeowners of real equity.
“What the state is asking for, they’re asking for a court order to invalidate those liens, making them not worth the paper that they’re written on, whether recorded or not,” Wonsetler explained.
Ulrich contacted MV Realty at its corporate office near Fort Lauderdale. The company said its attorney is reviewing the complaint, and it’s confident that the transactions were transparent and that its team has operated in full compliance of the law.
The attorney general’s complaint alleges unfair and deceptive trade, and it demands the real estate company change the way it does business in the future.
In its response to Action 9, MV Realty said it has more than 30,000 satisfied customers in Florida and across the country.
MV Realty response:
“Earlier yesterday, the Florida Attorney General issued a press release stating she filed a complaint against MV Realty. Our attorney is reviewing the complaint. MV Realty has helped more than 30,000 satisfied clients across the country and in Florida through our Homeowner Benefit Program. Our company is proud to employ hundreds of locally licensed real estate agents, including many in Florida. MV Realty has always been committed to transparency in all of our business transactions, and we are confident that any inquiry will confirm that our team has operated in full compliance with the law.”
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