New statewide legislation could help crack down on a Florida real estate company accused of using deceptive business practices to swindle thousands of homeowners.
Florida state Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Florida state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, introduced two identical bills on Wednesday aimed at protecting Floridians against predatory real estate listing agreements.
In a news release, the lawmakers specifically cited MV Realty, a Delray Beach-basedbrokerage that provides quick cash to homeowners who sign over the exclusive rights to sell their homes. What many do not realize is that these contracts last 40 years and allow the company to place a lien on their homes.
The Tampa Bay Times reported on MV Realty’s Homeowner Benefit Program in September.
In November, the Florida Attorney General’s Office filed suit against MV Realty in Hillsborough County Court. That case is ongoing.
Attorneys General in Massachusetts, Ohio and Pennsylvania have since filed their own lawsuits against the company.
In a statement, Robinson said that listing agreements are a routine part of real estate transactions, but they typically last no more than six months. The new bills would limit the terms of these agreements to six months and prohibit courts from enforcing these agreements through the use of liens on a homeowner’s property.
“Our proposed bill refines Florida real estate code to prevent predatory companies from exploiting consumers, while ensuring we’re not adversely affecting legitimate real estate practices,” Robinson said.
Attorney General Ashley Moody expressed her support for the legislation. In a statement, she said it “shuts down an unfair, unscrupulous new practice that aims to take advantage of Floridians and their most important asset, their homes.”
In her lawsuit, Moody asks the judge to prevent MV Realty from enforcing any of its current Homeowner Benefit contracts and to prevent the company from engaging in deceptive business practices going forward. She also requests that MV Realty return the money it took from homeowners and pay civil penalties.
Earlier this month, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case.
A spokesperson for the company said in a statement that MV Realty has paused entering into any new agreements with homeowners and has brought in outside counsel to redraft the Homeowner Benefit Program contract.
Bradley told the Tampa Bay Times that MV Realty may not be the only bad actor using listing agreements to take advantage of homeowners.
“I believe this scheme is really evolving, and it could show up in Florida under other iterations,” she said. “It’s important to make it clear that the state will not tolerate this behavior.”