Article Courtesy of The
OPalm Beach Post
By Kimberly Miller
Published January 28, 2023
Thousands of Sunshine State homeowners were duped by a Delray Beach-based
company into signing 40-year sales contracts that amount to liens on their
properties with hefty repercussions for breaking the agreement, according to a
Florida attorney general’s lawsuit.
estimated 1,500 Palm Beach County homeowners and more than 9,000 statewide
signed up with MV Realty PBC — a limited liability company whose initials stand
for Mad Valorem, a play on ad valorem, the lawsuit says.
Filed in Hillsborough County, the suit accuses MV Realty executives Amanda
Zuckerman, Antony Mitchell and David Manchester of using a “complex and
deceptive scheme that attempts to skirt existing Florida law with the goal of
swindling consumers out of their home equity.”
In exchange for one-time payouts of between $300 and $5,000 to the homeowner,
the company gains the right to sell the home for four decades through a
“Homeowner Benefit Agreement.”
But if a homeowner wants to cancel the agreement, goes into foreclosure, lists
to sell with a different agency, or dies and leaves it to heirs, MV Realty gets
3% of the property’s value as determined by MV Realty, according to court
A copy of the complaint filed against MV Realty PBC,
LLC by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Nov. 29, 2022.
Officials: Agreement is interpreted as a lien
Also, state officials said because the agreement is recorded in official court
records, it has been interpreted as a lien, which limits the homeowner’s ability
to take out reverse mortgages and home equity lines of credit or to refinance.
MV Realty, which operates in 33 states, defended its practices and refutes any
“New and innovative business models, like the Homeowner Benefit Agreement, can
transform established industries and can sometimes draw questions from critics
or outright hostility from those whose existing business model is threatened,”
MV Realty said in a statement.
The company said it will work with attorneys general, policymakers and
regulators to answer questions and discuss its program, which the company said
has been used by more than 35,000 homeowners nationwide.
“We are confident after a full airing of the facts, these discussions will
reinforce how MV Realty’s business transactions are legal and ethical and that
our team operates in full compliance with state and federal laws,” the statement
Attorneys general in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have also filed suits
against the company, and at least one Palm Beach County attorney is wary of the
“I find the entire concept unconscionable,” said Joseph Karp, a Palm Beach
Gardens elder law attorney who stumbled on MV Realty in 2021 when working with
an 82-year-old client suffering from dementia. “I don’t know how my client got
contacted, or what she understood, but it just smelled wrong.”
Karp said his client didn’t need the $800 that MV Realty gave her for obtaining
the exclusive rights to list her three-bedroom Port St. Lucie home for 40 years.
It filed a “memorandum of homeowner benefit agreement” in official court
records, which Karp said was effectively a 40-year lien.
“It would have been apparent to even a casual observer that my client was
confused and not capable of understanding and signing a valid and enforceable
contract,” said Karp, who contacted the attorney general’s office about his
The Florida lawsuit says “many” homeowners who signed contracts with MV Realty
were vulnerable targets, including senior citizens with limited cognitive
capacity or people who spoke English as a second language. Notaries often
arrived at peoples' homes with only one copy of the agreement, which homeowners
said they were not able to see or have explained to them, the suit claims.
Similar allegations are included in the Massachusetts lawsuit. Florida’s lawsuit
was filed Nov. 29, followed by the ones in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, which
were both filed Dec. 14.
“We are suing to get homeowners out of these contracts, protect our residents
from this scheme, and stop this predatory company from doing any more business
here in Massachusetts,” said Maura Healey, then Massachusetts' attorney general
and now its governor, in a December press release about the lawsuit.
Healey said MV Realty began doing business in Massachusetts in 2021 and has more
than 500 contracts with homeowners who were given cash payments of between $500
and $5,000 to sign the Homeowner Benefit Agreement.
The company started in Florida in 2014 but didn’t offer the benefit agreement
until 2018, which was at first called an “Optlisting Agreement.”
The Optlisting Agreement had terms that said the listing contract would
automatically renew every three years unless a homeowner canceled it. A
cancellation, however, required the homeowner to return back the one-time payout
plus 1.5% of the market value of their home.
In 2019, the Optlisting Agreement became the Homeowner Benefit Agreement, which
included the 40-year listing requirement and gave MV Realty 3% of the home’s
market value if the agreement was broken.
Telemarketers are used to call or text homeowners with prerecorded messages
about plans. One telemarketing company left 6.83 million voicemails marketing
the Homeowner Benefits Agreement in 2021 and 2022. Millions of calls were also
made to people on the National Do Not Call Registry, the Florida lawsuit claims.
Three counts of unlawful practices are levied against MV Realty in Florida’s
suit, including violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices
Act and the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule.
MV Realty continues to advertise its “Homeowner Benefit Program” on its website
with some tweaks from its original format, including clarifying that the
homeowner has three days to rescind the contract after signing it. It also says
that while the listing agreement is for 40 years, if MV Realty doesn’t sell the
house within six months of it going to market, the homeowner can use a different
company without owing anything to MV Realty.