On December 14, 2022, the Pennsylvania Attorney General filed a lawsuit against MV Realty, accusing the company of engaging in deceptive business practices. Since 2020, hundreds of Philadelphia residents have signed so-called “Homeowner Benefits Agreements” with MV Realty. These agreements are very problematic, and many homeowners said the terms were not fully explained when they signed the documents.
The Philadelphia Department of Planning and Development, Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, and Community Legal Services are hosting information sessions for affected residents. You may register to attend one of the remaining sessions or watch the recording from the first session.
Here’s what homeowners need to know about MV Realty’s agreements:
- The agreement is a contract that lasts for 40 years. It requires the homeowner to use MV Realty as their real estate agent if the homeowner decides to sell the home at any time within those 40 years and to pay MV Realty a 3-6 percent commission.
- The contract requires homeowners to pay MV Realty 3 percent of their home’s value – as determined by MV Realty – if any of the following events occur during the 40-year contract:
- The homeowner lists the property for sale on their own or with a different listing agent
- The homeowner loses the property due to foreclosure
- The homeowner transfers the property to someone else, even if MV Realty did not have any role in the sale or transfer. Exception: The homeowner transfers the property to a spouse or another individual for estate planning purposes AND the new owner signs a contract with MV Realty within 10 days of the transfer.
- The homeowner dies and the heirs do not sign a contract with MV Realty within 10 days of the homeowner’s death
- The homeowner tries to cancel the contract.
- MV Realty requires homeowners to sign a mortgage putting up their home as a guarantee for any money due under the agreement. The mortgage is recorded with the Philadelphia Department of Records. The mortgage can make it difficult for homeowners to refinance, get a home equity line of credit, or sell their home.
Q: Is this agreement legal?
A: MV Realty’s agreement and mortgage are complex and put many requirements on homeowners. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s lawsuit against MV Realty claims the company’s practices are unlawful. The Attorneys General in Massachusetts and Florida have also sued the company alleging their practices are illegal.
Specifically, advocates in Pennsylvania believe that MV Realty misleads homeowners about the nature of the agreement and that the 40-year contract term exceeds the maximum term under Pennsylvania law, among other issues. MV Realty has disputed those claims. Ultimately, the courts will determine if the agreement and practices of MV Realty are legal.
You should carefully read any documents that you are asked to sign and seek out an attorney if you need help understanding any contracts.
Q: I need help paying for home repairs. If I don’t get the money MV Realty is offering, what can I do to get help?
A: There are several programs that may be able to assist residents.
- Basic Systems Home Repair Program (BSRP) provides free repairs to correct electrical, plumbing, heating, roofing, and some structural and carpentry emergencies in eligible owner-occupied homes.
- Adaptive Modification Program (AMP) helps people living with permanent physical disabilities live more independently at home by making adaptations to houses and apartments.
- Heater Hotline makes free emergency repairs to heaters.
- Restore Repair Renew provides low-interest loans that can be used to pay for home repairs to improve residents’ health, safety, accessibility, and quality of life.
To learn more about these programs, visit https://phdcphila.org/ and click on the word “Residents” in the blue band near the top of the page, below the PHDC logo.
Q: I received a letter from the Philadelphia Department of Records stating that there’s a new mortgage on my property filed by MV Realty. Do I still own the home? How can I find out more about this mortgage?
A: MV Realty requires homeowners to sign a mortgage putting up their home as a guarantee for any money due under the agreement. The mortgage is not a transfer of ownership, so you still own your home. But the mortgage can make it difficult for you to refinance, get a home equity line of credit, or sell your home.
You can contact the Department of Records at 215-686-2290 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get a copy of the MV Realty mortgage.
Q: If I must pay MV Realty a fee based on the market value of my home, how much will I have to pay?
A: Under the terms of the agreement, if you use MV Realty as your listing agent to sell your home, you will have to pay MV Realty whichever is higher:
- 3-6 percent of the sale price for your home OR
- 3 percent of what MV Realty estimates to be the value of your home at the time you signed the agreement
If you try to cancel the deal or transfer the property to someone else, you will have to pay 3 percent of the value of the property. MV Realty will determine the value of your property.
Q: Now I want to cancel the agreement. What can I do?
A: The agreement includes language that may allow you to cancel the contract within 3 days of signing it.
In addition, under Pennsylvania law, you can cancel a contract within 3 days of signing it if:
- You signed the contract after being contacted at home, whether in person or by phone, AND
- The contract is about products or services that cost $25 or more;
- The 3 days do not start until the person or company you contracted with provides you with two copies of a “Notice of Cancellation” form that informs you about this Pennsylvania law.
You should consult with an attorney to determine if you have the right to cancel the agreement and what other options you may have.
Q: If it’s too late to cancel the contract, what else can I do?
A: If you believe that MV Realty engaged in unfair or deceptive practices, you should report your complaint to the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
- Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General
- Hotline for Consumer Protection: 800-441-2555
- Online Complaint Form: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/submit-a-complaint/consumer-complaint/
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Consumer Complaints: 855-411-2372
- Online Complaint Form: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/
You can call the Save Your Home Philly Hotline at 215-334-4663 to speak to someone about the basics of the agreement. If you have a low income, the hotline may refer you to a legal aid program for legal advice. If you are not eligible for free legal help, the Philadelphia Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service can help you find an attorney by calling 215-238-6333 or visiting their website.