The Ugly Truth: HomeVestors of America's Exploitative Practices and How the Law Can Help
A recent investigation by ProPublica titled "The Ugly Truth Behind “We Buy Ugly Houses”" has unearthed alarming facts about HomeVestors of America, the largest cash homebuyer in the United States. The article, written by Anjeanette Damon, Byard Duncan, and Mollie Simon, exposes a web of deceptive practices targeting vulnerable homeowners in desperate situations.
The Dubious Practices of HomeVestors
The investigation reveals that HomeVestors trains its franchisees to identify distressed homeowners, including the elderly, infirm, and those facing financial difficulties, and persuade them to sell their properties at unfairly low prices. Instances were found where franchisees took advantage of individuals with dementia or others caught in painful life events like deaths, divorces, or transitions to nursing facilities.
Furthermore, HomeVestors defends itself by citing high approval ratings and asserts it takes action against franchises in violation of standards. But the investigation uncovers a pattern of behavior that emphasizes profit over ethical conduct.
The Lacking Regulatory Environment
Unlike real estate agents who operate under regulations and have fiduciary responsibilities to represent homeowners, house flippers like HomeVestors function without a license and with few ethical constraints. While some cities, such as Philadelphia, have implemented regulations to protect homeowners, a significant gap still exists.
How to Fight Back: State Laws and Beyond
If you or a loved one find yourself ensnared in a transaction with a company like HomeVestors, it is vital to know that there are legal avenues available to help you.
First, contact a consumer law attorney in your state to explore remedies under state law. Many states have regulations designed to protect homeowners, and a skilled attorney can guide you through your options.
However, if state law offers no relief, you need not lose hope. Federal bankruptcy laws provide another opportunity for justice.
Utilizing Bankruptcy Laws: A Powerful Remedy
If a fraudulent transfer took place within the last two years, the bankruptcy law could prove to be the most effective way to recover the homes sold for less than their actual worth. Section 548(1)(B) of the bankruptcy code enables homeowners to avoid transactions that were fraudulent and unfair.
Many times, family members learn that their loved ones have been cheated well past the time relief is available under state law. But bankruptcy laws extend the window, providing a lifeline to those who were exploited.
Call to Action: Don't Hesitate to Seek Help
The ProPublica investigation casts a spotlight on the harsh reality of predatory house-flipping practices. Yet, the law offers tools to fight back.
If you suspect that a loved one was taken advantage of in a transaction like this, time is of the essence:
Call a Consumer Law Attorney in Your State
Explore remedies available under state law. Many attorneys specialize in protecting consumers, and their expertise could help you navigate your way to justice.
Contact a Knowledgeable Bankruptcy Attorney
If state law offers no help, do not despair. Bankruptcy law could be your best chance to recover a home sold for less than it was worth.
Empowerment through Knowledge and Legal Action
The alarming practices of HomeVestors of America, as exposed by the ProPublica investigation, are a grim reminder of the need for vigilance and awareness. Yet, they also highlight the power of legal remedies available to those who find themselves caught in "ugly situations."
State laws and, if necessary, federal bankruptcy laws stand as pillars of protection. By seeking legal assistance promptly, homeowners can not only hold companies like HomeVestors accountable but also find a path to recovery and justice.
In the fight against deceptive practices, knowledge is power. Whether through state law or bankruptcy code, the law can provide a way out, a path towards justice, and perhaps most importantly, a reminder that you do not have to face these challenges alone.