By KIMBERLEY HAAS
The attorney general of Pennsylvania announced on Wednesday that he is suing Florida-based MV Realty PBC, LLC and its founder, alleging the company scammed consumers.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement that Pennsylvania homeowners are falling victim to hidden terms in the Homeowner Benefit Program.
“MV Realty is a scam that exploits Pennsylvanians in vulnerable financial situations, and my office isn’t buying it. My office will protect homeowners’ most important asset – the value of their real estate,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro, a Democrat, won the race for governor of Pennsylvania in November. He will be sworn in on Jan. 17 in Harrisburg.
MV Realty was founded by Amanda Zachman and has been doing business in Pennsylvania since 2020.
It is estimated that MV Realty has done business with approximately 1,000 homeowners in Pennsylvania, including at least 500 in Philadelphia.
Officials at the attorney general’s office in Harrisburg say that the defendants misled Pennsylvania consumers regarding the terms of their Homeowner Benefit Program to obtain mortgages on consumers’ homes without their knowledge, according to a press release.
It is alleged the Homeowner Benefit Program offered by MV Realty entices people with a cash payment in exchange for the exclusive opportunity for the company to list the consumer’s home on the market if they sell at any time in the next 40 years.
Penalties and mortgages placed against the property blindside consumers when they try to withdraw from the program, according to officials.
The lawsuit asserts that the defendants engaged in unfair and deceptive acts and practices in violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
The lawsuit requests the court order the defendants to:
- Pay restitution to all the people who have suffered losses as a result of the defendants’ conduct;
- Strike all mortgages recorded on real estate in Pennsylvania;
- Refrain from entering into the Homeowner Benefit Agreement with Pennsylvania consumers; and
- Pay civil penalties of $1,000 for each violation of the Consumer Protection Law and $3,000 for each violation involving a consumer 60 or older.
Thomas Halapin, an MV Realty consumer from just outside of Pittsburgh, said in a statement that he and his wife were treated unfairly.
“I was unaware a mortgage was placed on my property until a news reporter showed up at my house the following morning. The terms we discussed with MV Realty never mentioned a mortgage and they represented the agreement was for 10 years, not 40,” Halapin said.
Allegedly, MV Realty’s telephone sales pitch suggests that the Homeowner Benefit Program has no risk to homeowners because they pay nothing to the company unless they sell their homes.
When successful with its sales pitch, consumers sign a contract that contains terms that are different from the deal MV Realty sells over the phone, according to officials.
According to court paperwork, the consumer is not told a mortgage would be recorded on their home before the execution of the agreement.
Instead, a notary is sent to meet the homeowner at their home or a public place. The first time consumers see the terms in writing is when the notary presents them with paperwork to sign.
It is alleged that “consumers end up trapped by fine print that they had no real opportunity to read and understand.”
“Consumers report that the appointments with MV Realty’s notaries often feel rushed. Many of these appointments last less than ten minutes. Some notaries told consumers that they had to wrap up quickly in order to attend other appointments for MV Realty,” a complaint filed by Senior Deputy Attorney General Debra Djupman Warring states.
It is alleged that when consumers contacted the company after learning a mortgage had been recorded on the property, they were falsely told no mortgage was in existence.
If homeowners breached the terms of the agreement, lawsuits were initiated by the company, according to court paperwork.
State officials are urging consumers with concerns about contracts they signed with MV Realty to file a complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
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