In a move to protect consumers, the New Jersey attorney general and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs have taken decisive action against a realty company and its principals. The company is accused of violating the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by engaging in deceptive practices related to its “Homeowner Benefit Program” (HBP). Simultaneously, the New Jersey Real Estate Commission in the Department of Banking and Insurance has issued an order to show cause, targeting the company’s real estate licenses and specific individuals associated with the alleged misconduct.
The complaint lodged against the defendants reveals that the HBP was marketed to consumers as a low-risk opportunity to receive upfront cash ranging from $300 to $5000. In exchange, the defendants would act as the consumers’ real estate agents if they decided to sell their homes in the future. Importantly, the program was not presented as a loan, and consumers were assured that they had no obligation to repay the defendants or sell their homes later on. However, the complaint contends that the HBP effectively functions as a high-interest mortgage loan. It grants the defendants the right to list the property for a staggering 40 years, even extending beyond the homeowner’s death. Furthermore, the HBP imposes hefty early termination fees on homeowners. The complaint further alleges that the defendants failed to disclose the true nature of the program and neglected to provide upfront information about its terms.
In addition to these troubling allegations, the defendants are also accused of engaging in unsolicited telemarketing practices. Despite lacking the necessary license as telemarketers in New Jersey, the defendants allegedly made unsolicited phone calls to consumers in order to promote the HBP.
The complaint seeks a court order that would compel the defendants to release all liens against homeowners, provide restitution and disgorgement, and pay civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
Simultaneously, the order to show cause issued by the New Jersey Real Estate Commission addresses violations of the state’s Real Estate License Act. The defendants are required to justify why their real estate licenses should not be suspended or revoked and why fines or other sanctions, including restitution, should not be imposed. To comply with this order, the defendants have agreed to halt any further attempts to engage New Jersey consumers in the HBP agreement until the matter is resolved.
This legal action underscores New Jersey’s commitment to safeguarding consumers and holding businesses accountable for deceptive practices. The state authorities are dedicated to ensuring transparency and fairness in the real estate market, sending a clear message that misleading and predatory tactics will not be tolerated.