For years, music teacher Simon Watts called his Somerville condo home.
He wasn’t looking to sell, but was intrigued when a real estate company, MV Realty, offered him upfront cash in return for the promise that they could sell him home when the time was right.
“I was a bit skeptical,” he remembered.
After talking to some people and researching the company, he decided to take them up on the offer of $2,120 in exchange for the exclusive rights to list his home in the future.
“When I didn’t find anything, I thought why not?” he said.
He said he thinks he used the money to buy flights for the family and then didn’t think much of it after that.
What he didn’t know was that the company placed a lien on his property. Since Watts didn’t try to sell his home in the year since he signed with MV Realty, he said he was unaware his home had a lien on it until 7 Investigates reached out this fall.
“I don’t think they should be able to. I mean that’s ridiculous that you can put a lien on someone’s property without them being upfront and forthright about it,” Watts said.
7 Investigates has discovered MV Realty filed liens on hundreds of properties across Massachusetts between 2021-2022.
MV Realty is a real estate brokerage company that sells “Homeowner Benefit Agreements”, which promises homeowners cash up front in exchange for MV Realty being the listing broker when it’s time to sell the house. To ensure homeowners stick to the contract MV Realty places a lien on the property.
“I was furious and I was in shock,” said Crystal Doe,a former Rutland homeowner.
Doe found out about the lien on her Rutland property when she she went to sell her home in 2022.
She claimed she tried to work with MV Realty at first but its agents didn’t put any effort into selling the property.
“They would not release the lien They gave us a very, very hard time about it and honestly it was very, very painful to my entire family,” Doe recalled.
She had to pay $13,000 to MV Realty to get out of their agreement; a value she said was ten times more than the incentive she initially received from the company.
Jordana Greenman is a real estate attorney who worked with Doe and first discovered the lien.
“I said to myself , ‘What?’ They filed something with the registry of deeds because they are listing your house. I’ve never heard of that before,” Greenman said.
Greenman decided to alert the Massachusetts Attorney General Office to the situation. That decision led the office to investigate MV Realty and eventually file a lawsuit in December 2022. The lawsuit claimed MV Realty engaged in “unfair and deceptive business practices.”
“I was very surprised that this was actually happening under the nose of this state without anyone noticing for so long,” Greenman said.
In March 2023, a Massachusetts judge temporarily blocked MV Realty from doing business in the state; an action that removed the liens from hundreds of properties.
“All the people who hadn’t sold their houses, that’s gone. That mortgage is deemed void, so that’s exciting. It means being a part of change,” Greenman said.
MV Realty operates in more than 30 states and so far six other Attorney Generals have filed lawsuits against the company. The recent legal action in Massachusetts however still hasn’t helped homeowners like Doe who lost money to the company.
Doe and others might get justice through a bankruptcy case in Florida.
MV Realty filed for bankruptcy in September. In the last few weeks, homeowners in Massachusetts have started to receive letters alerting them of the bankruptcy.
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office advises people who receive bankruptcy notices to contract a lawyer if they have questions and points them to https://dm.epiq11.com/case/mvrealtyholdings/info.
There is a December 1 deadline in the bankruptcy case for consumers to file claims.
Greenman said she hopes homeowners file claims and show up for the bankruptcy case.
“If everyone just sits back and is like, ‘OK, well I don’t have this problem anymore so I’m not going to follow up on it,’ that’s just letting it slide,” Greenman said
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