City Council investigates real estate dealings that locked Philadelphia homeowners out of the right to sell their homes

A closeup of Philadelphia City Hall

A closeup of Philadelphia City Hall. (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)

Philadelphia City Council heard complaints Wednesday from residents accusing a real estate company of a scheme that’s now being investigated by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.

Homeowners told Council MV Realty convinced them to sign an exclusive 40-year contract for their eventual home sale in exchange for a payment.

Timothy Calhoun said the company then put a mortgage against his home.

“I learned through a notice from the city of Philadelphia Department of Records that a mortgage was recorded on my home,” he told council members. “I was shocked. They never told me that they were signing, I was signing a mortgage. If I had known that I was going to put a mortgage on my house, I would have never signed the agreement.”

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Rodney Thomas said in addition to a mortgage, he had a lien put against his property to prevent him from selling. “I just want my home back,” he said “They took my home from me and put me in a situation, I just want my home back.”

Felicia Pierce accused MV Realty of giving her less than $500 for repairs, which locked her into a 40-year contract for the rights to sell her home.

“I could have went to a family member and borrowed the money that I needed, but my independence wouldn’t allow me to do that. I went this route, but I would never lock myself in for no 40 year agreement,” she said.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has filed suit against the MV Realty, contending the company “misled Pennsylvania consumers.”

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“Pennsylvania homeowners are falling victim to MV Realty’s calculated deception in hiding the terms of the Homeowner Benefit Program,” Shapiro said in a statement after filing the suit. “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.”

The company is currently operating in 33 states from a home base in Florida where it is also being taken to court.

MV Realty issued a statement denying that their dealings violated state laws.

“After a full airing of the facts, we are confident that the conclusion will be that MV Realty’s business transactions are in full compliance with Pennsylvania law,” the company’s statement said. “As this process moves forward, we remain fully committed to working with Pennsylvania policymakers, including the Attorney General, to discuss appropriate regulations and oversight for the new and emerging business.”

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