November 30, 2021
A recent ruling from an Allegheny County judge gave 285 Pennsylvania tenants the titles to their homes as compensation for being misled into predatory rent-to-own agreements with a national property management company.
A lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro alleged that South Carolina-based Vision Property Management LLC promised tenants they would own their homes in a matter of years.
In reality, many tenants would still owe thousands more when their initial rent-to-own contracts expired, leaving Vision the option to evict the renters in lieu of the extra cash, the lawsuit alleged. Furthermore, the contracts stipulated that tenants could be evicted if they fell behind on rent at all, even temporarily.
The ruling, issued by Court of Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward, affected 19 homes in Philadelphia, nine in Delaware County and one in Montgomery County. It states that any of the outstanding contracts with tenants should be considered paid in full.
The ruling does not apply to former tenants who already left their homes at the time of the ruling. Shapiro said his office is working to get restitution for those Pennsylvanians as well.
Vision appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court on Friday.
Daniel Ramos, one of the Philadelphia residents impacted by the ruling, told the Inquirer that he entered a contract with Vision believing he would gain the property's title in seven years.
"I was always under the impression that I was going to own the property," he said. But after talking to a lawyer, he realized he had been misled.
After six years, Ramos had only paid off $39,500 of the $72,000 he needed to get the title. And when he temporarily fell behind on rent in 2019, Vision attempted to evict him.
The legal saga began in 2016 when a Dravosburg, Allegheny County woman filed a complaint with Shapiro's office, claiming her rent-to-own agreement with Vision was misleading, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The state first filed a lawsuit against Vision and its affiliates in 2019, alleging that 650 Pennsylvanians were impacted by the scheme.
Last December, the Allegheny Court ruled that the tenant should stop making payments to Vision after finding the company in contempt of court.