In full transparency, the following is a press release submitted to SOURCE media from the AG’s office. (stock photo)
BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced today, December 14, that her office has sued a Florida-based financial company, which presents itself as a real estate brokerage, for aggressively marketing a deceptive small dollar loan product to hundreds of financially struggling homeowners in Massachusetts.
The AG’s complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that MV of Massachusetts, LLC, a/k/a MV Realty, sells a product called a “Homeowner Benefit Agreement” (HBA) that offers small dollar cash payments in exchange for a 40-year exclusive right for MV Realty to act as the listing brokerage when the homeowner decides to sell.
The complaint also alleges that MV Realty uses unfair and deceptive marketing and sales tactics to hide the true terms of the contract, which, effectively amounts to a loan, and uses illegal methods for securing its rights under the contracts, including mortgaging homeowners’ properties in violation of Massachusetts laws.
The AG’s Office also filed a request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to ban MV Realty from offering these deceptive contracts to consumers in Massachusetts.
Terms buried in the contract include: a clause that allows MV Realty to assign the right to be the homeowner’s broker to anybody it wants to, without restriction; a clause ensuring a minimum payment to MV Realty, even if it overestimated the value of the home; a clause that requires tenfold repayment of the advance if the owner loses the home to foreclosure; and a clause that says that if MV Realty does act as a broker it will not owe homeowners the duty of loyalty or duty of confidentiality real estate agents generally owe their clients.
“MV Realty’s business model and contract terms are unconscionable, targeting elderly and financially vulnerable homeowners who are short on cash, only to leave them with agreements they don’t understand and can’t get out of,” said AG Healey. “We are suing to get homeowners out of these contracts, protect our residents from this scheme, and stop this predatory company from doing any more business here in Massachusetts.”
According to the AG’s Office, MV Realty began doing business in Massachusetts in 2021 and has sold over 500 HBAs to Massachusetts homeowners across almost every county in the state.
MV Realty markets its HBAs as a “loan alternative” and aggressively targets low-income and elderly consumers who are in immediate need of cash with payments ranging from $500 to $5,000 (averaging $1,150).
MV Realty conceals in its marketing and sales processes material terms including its ability to foreclose on the home, that the company only acts as a “non-agent facilitator,” and that if the heirs won’t assume the agreement after a homeowner’s death, MV Realty can foreclose.
Under the terms of the contract, MV Realty can also collect a payment of at least 10 times the amount advanced with virtually any title transfer or service provided to the homeowner – not just when the home is sold as presented to homeowners.
For example, in exchange for $1,315 in cash to one consumer, MV Realty was guaranteed approximately $13,148 in the event of a sale—all secured by a mortgage on a home with an estimated value of $438,290.
When a financial hardship required a fast sale of the home, the consumer paid this $13,290 “early termination fee,” even though MV Realty did not act as a broker.
The AG’s complaint alleges that MV Realty targeted consumers searching for information on small loans or public benefits with advertisements that falsely implied that the HBAs were a public program, promotion, or giveaway. They also allegedly targeted vulnerable consumers using search terms like “government home improvement grant” and “help for seniors with home repairs.”
Its advertising included phrases like “Remember, because it’s not a loan, there is NO repayment” and “you NEVER repay these funds.”
Once MV Realty obtained a lead, the complaint alleges that salespeople would barrage homeowners with phone calls, texts, and emails to secure a deal. Salespeople for MV Realty took numerous steps to ensure homeowners did not read through or understand the HBA contracts, including not providing documents in advance for consumers to read, printing physical documents in size 8.5-point font, not leaving copies after consumers signed the contract, and sending mobile notaries who knew nothing about the product to rush homeowners to sign. These mortgage transactions typically close without an attorney present in consumers’ living rooms, on car hoods, or, in at least one case, at a local Dunkin Donuts.
As a result of these practices, the complaint alleges that MV Realty customers are unaware of the core terms of the transaction and are unwittingly saddled with an encumbrance on their home, tying up what is most likely their most valuable asset, restricting their ability to refinance, and preventing them from selling without paying a tenfold penalty to MV Realty.
The AG’s complaint alleges that MV Realty engaged in unfair and deceptive acts related to consumer finance and residential real estate, unlicensed practice of law, and systemic violations of Massachusetts laws related to mortgages and consumer loans, including laws prohibiting usury. The complaint seeks restitution for consumers, rescission of the contracts, release of the mortgages, and civil penalties.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Schuyler Daum and Daniel Bahls, Paralegals Melissa Herriford and Noah Kopf and Division Chief Shennan Kavanagh, all from the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, with assistance from Senior Investigator Marlee Leo of the AG’s Civil Investigations Division.