I-TEAM: Ohio attorney general ‘reviewing’ allegations against MV Realty

MIAMI VALLEY — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost would not answer directly Thursday when News Center 7 I-Team’s John Bedell asked whether the state would file a lawsuit against MV Realty or join another state’s legal battle against the company to look into allegations of deceptive business practices.

“We’re reviewing this and it’s a symptom of a larger problem,” Yost said. “It’s important to get it right, so I am not prepared today to give you an answer to that question, but we’re aware of the situation.”

>> I-TEAM: Real estate racket? Company offers homeowners quick cash for 40-year lien

Yost was asked whether his office has an investigation open into Florida-based MV Realty.

“We don’t comment on the existence of investigations,” he said to Bedell.

Our I-Team, which has covered the story about MV Realty for months, has found that attorneys general in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania said they are going after the company on charges of deceptive practices. That word came after the I-Team reported Florida’s attorney general announced that office has filed suit.

“People don’t expect that a mortgage lien is going to be recorded on their property just for signing up to use a company as your real estate agent. It’s far outside the norm of industry standards,” Debra Djupman Warring, Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, said.

Attorneys general in Georgia and North Carolina have opened investigations into the company.

MV Realty is accused of locking Miami Valley homeowners into 40-year real estate contracts the homeowners have said are confusing.

As the I-Team has reported, MV Realty is doing business in 33 states, including Ohio where the I-Team found at least 600 homeowners statewide under contract with the company -- and at least 146 in the Miami Valley.

>> I-TEAM: Lawyer explains ‘very serious allegations’ against MV Realty

In return for quick cash, MV Realty agreements bind homeowners to a 40-year contract. Sell your home with one of their agents or pay a cancellation fee of three percent of your home’s value. The deals are secured with liens attached to properties and even transfers to customer’s heirs if they die.

News Center 7 teamed up with our sister stations across the country for this investigation. We talked to homeowners in city after city who said they had no idea what they were signing up for.

Dina Franch, Atlanta Legal Aid attorney, told the I-Team that MV’s contracts seem intentionally confusing.

Of the states that have filed lawsuits, Franch said, “They’re the ones that have the the reach, the investigative reach and the resources to take quick action and get universal relief.”

Whether the lawsuits will affect MV customers outside Florida, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts is not clear.

MV Realty has repeatedly declined I-Team requests for an on-camera interview. But in a statement, a company spokesperson said they have “always been committed to transparency” and they are confident any inquiry will confirm their team has operated in “full compliance with the law.”

Now, Congress is asking questions about MV Realty as well.

Last month, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio), told News Center 7 that MV Realty could face scrutiny from the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Brown chairs that committee.

Thursday, he said, “Yeah, I think that any company that’s generally accused with evidence of doing what MV Realty has done, needs to have oversight from Congress and the courts. And we’re working to do that.”

Brown offered no timetable as to when that work would be completed.

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