AARP Eye Center
In collaboration with our Consumer Issues Task Force (CITF) - led by Chairperson Mary Bach and supported by Associate State Director of Community Outreach David Kalinoski - AARP Pennsylvania has a long and respected history of advocating to spread information and knowledge about frauds and scams.
During the past few months, CITF members have been briefed by State Director of Advocacy Teresa Osborne about a particular real estate scam that has impacted over a thousand Pennsylvania homeowners in communities throughout the Commonwealth.
Last year, AARP Pennsylvania learned that a Florida-based real estate firm - MV Realty - was offering small cash payments to homeowners to serve as their exclusive real estate agent. What the real estate firm wasn’t disclosing is that unlike most real estate contracts that last months at most, these agreements lasted for 40 years. Worse yet these companies were targeting underprivileged neighborhoods with illegal robocalls and offering the homeowner hundreds of dollars for a contract that would eventually pay the real estate firm thousands.
Homeowners are often unaware that these ‘benefit agreements’ are attached to their deed, treated as liens on their property, and carried over to future owners. If a homeowner or the homeowner’s heir sells through a different broker, or if the house is foreclosed upon, they still must pay a percentage of the sale price as a commission to the company.
We also learned that Attorneys General in states across the country – including the Pennsylvania Attorney General - filed lawsuits against MV Realty. Additionally, AARP Offices in multiple states are educating their members and Americans 50+ about this real estate scam. We are urging state lawmakers to pass legislation to strengthen consumer protections against homeowner benefit agreements in many states. Utah, North Dakota, Idaho, Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, and Florida are among the states that have recently passed laws that will protect homeowners from this predatory practice.
What can YOU do?
In collaboration with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network and its weekly podcast The Perfect ScamSM – which tells the stories of people who find themselves the target of a scam – two older Pennsylvania homeowners from Philadelphia, who were preyed upon by this Florida-based real estate entity - MV Realty - recently shared their story. They were joined by Attorney Kerry Smith of Community Legal Services’ Homeownership and Consumer Rights Unit.
The two The Perfect Scam Podcasts covering Real Estate Scams aired on Friday, April 28 and on Friday, May 5, respectively.
In the meantime, be wary of unsolicited phone calls, especially those that offer a financial incentive to sign a contract. Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
If you are concerned that you may have signed a realty contract in exchange for money, you are strongly encouraged to file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Consumer protection online, or by calling: 1-800-441-2555, or by emailing: email@example.com.
Report scams to local law enforcement. For help from AARP, call 1-877-908-3360 or visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.