I-TEAM: Lawmakers question company offering homeowners quick cash in exchange for 40-year lien

DAYTON — State and U.S. lawmakers from Ohio are now demanding answers from a real estate company that is tying up Miami Valley homeowners with 40-year listing agreements and taking them to court to collect big fees.

State Senator Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) told the I-Team’s lead investigative reporter, John Bedell, that the first time he heard of the concerns with Florida-based MV Realty was during our reporting Monday.

“And certainly it was quite frightening for consumers across Ohio,” Antani said.

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U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said he was glad WHIO-TV and its sister stations in seven other states are investigating the realty company.

“There are always con artists ready to pounce,” Brown said.

Both lawmakers are asking questions about MV Realty’s business practices.

News Center 7 teamed up with our Cox Media Group sister stations in seven cities for this nationwide investigation. We found MV Realty is doing business in 33 states, including Ohio. The I-Team checked county records that show at least 600 homeowners in Ohio have signed agreements with MV Realty, including at least 146 in the Miami Valley.

In exchange for signing up for its “Homeowner Benefit Program,” the realty company gives homeowners a check - in some cases for as little as a few hundred bucks. In return, you either list your home with an MV Realty agent or pay a penalty of three percent of the value of your home. The length of the deal is 40 years.

Antani told the I-Team: “I will say that we in the legislature have rarely interceded in a private contract between two private parties. We don’t see that as the government’s role. However, it is pretty common for us to require truth in advertising to ensure that when people are entering into a contract, that both sides actually understand what they’re entering into and the terms of the contract. And so that sort of truth in advertising is something that perhaps we could look at in this situation.”

Brown said MV Realty could face scrutiny from the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Development which he chairs.

“I want to know more about it,” Senator Brown said. “That’s why I’m listening to what Cox (Media Group’s investigative unit) is doing on this. We are just beginning to look at it, and it will not be before the first of the year. But I’ll be chair of this committee in January again,” Brown told the I-Team.

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“And when we see people taking advantage of homeowners or renters, we spring into action. And in cases like this, this is probably a primary,” Brown added.

As we reported Monday, MV Realty declined the I-Team’s request for an on-camera interview. Here is the entire written statement MV Realty sent to the I-Team:

“We do enforce our agreements when homeowners violate their contracts. But we make sure that homeowners clearly understand the terms of the agreements before signing. Our licensed agents and brokers walk homeowners through the contracts. These realtors are bound by a professional code of ethics, and they have undergone a rigorous training program that covers every aspect of the contract and teaches them how to explain it in plain English to signatories. We also give the homeowners the option to rescind the agreement within three days of signing for any reason whatsoever. Each client is left a leave-behind one-page document with an over view [sic] of the important parts of the contract they have already signed … that states the 3 (-day) rescission period, the length of the contract, as well as contact information. They must sign the leave behind as well, acknowledging they understand the agreement they have made with MV Realty.”

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