YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A property management company out of South Carolina that was allegedly using fraudulent contracts to get people to buy uninhabitable houses in Youngstown has finally agreed to settle.
In October 2018, Community Legal Aid Services sued Vision Property Management for selling what it called illegal contracts for dilapidated houses.
Earlier this week, Legal Aid received the settlement check of $260,000.
“Oh, I mean, we’re ecstatic. I mean, this was a great outcome,” said Legal Aid executive director Steve McGarrity.
The issues with Vision Property date back to 2017, when allegations first surfaced that the company was buying and selling dilapidated houses in the city of Youngstown under what Legal Aid claimed were illegal lease-to-own contracts.
“They engaged in really slimy tactics to get people to sign these contracts thinking that they were going to get the dream of homeownership and really, what they were ending up with was a financial nightmare,” McGarrity said.
The settlement involves nine homeowners for a total of $260,000. Each homeowner will receive between $5,000 and $50,000.
“We went into mediation and were able to settle the case for our clients and restore our clients all the money that they lost in the case plus some additional funds to them,” McGarrity said.
When the allegations against Vision Property became public, groups like the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation put pressure on the company to stop. They even traveled to South Carolina to protest outside the homes of the people running Vision Property.
The pressure, combined with the lawsuit and a new city law, has put a stop to fraudulent contracts in Youngstown.
“So this is a business model that these companies use that depended upon people not knowing any better. So we’ve done significant education in the community to let people know that this is not a good option, that if you are interested in buying a home there are other ways to do it and this is not the way to do it,” McGarrity said.
Of the nine clients represented by Legal Aid, two remain in the houses they bought from Vision Property. But as part of the deal, they must vacate the houses by Jan. 31.
Although it settled, Vision Property did not admit to any wrongdoing.
Also, late last week, a company headquartered in New York City bought Vision Property.
FTE Networks, Inc. announced it had bought Vision Property for $350 million.
What it bought was Vision’s portfolio of houses assembled over the past 10 years.
A news release from FTE states that Vision Property’s management team will continue as senior executives and major shareholders.