A real estate firm that operates a rent-to-own home selling business  is accused in a class action lawsuit of targeting Black would-be homebuyers in southeast Michigan.

A complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan accuses Vision Property Management of buying about 1,000 foreclosed homes in Black neighborhoods in the Detroit and Flint areas and then “selling” often-dilapidated homes under contracts that obscured the cost of buying and repairing the homes. The terms of the contract made it difficult for the would-be homebuyers to achieve homeownership.

The complaint says Vision described the contracts to both potential homebuyers and investors as land contracts, but they appeared to be leases with options to buy.

“People who signed contracts with Vision were saddled with all the repairs, upkeep, insurance and taxes — all the responsibilities that come with homeownership — with none of the rights,” said Bonsitu Kitaba, the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) of Michigan, in a news release. 

The ACLU of Michigan, along with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Consumer Law Center and the Michigan Poverty Law Program filed the lawsuit on behalf of the would-be homeowners. They’re asking for a declaration from the court that Vision violated the law, an injunction to prevent them from continuing to engage in the conduct described in the complaint and monetary damages both to make up for the losses experienced by the plaintiffs on home repairs and punitive damages to prevent this from happening in the future.

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Vision  didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Vision Property Management is a Delaware limited liability company headquartered in South Carolina that does significant business in Michigan, the complaint says. It also says the company has a large number of affiliated limited liability corporations, all operating under different names.

The lawsuit accuses the real estate firm of selling properties in extremely poor condition to consumers who then were expected to invest their own money in order to make the homes habitable. In the case of a default, they would lose that investment.

“Unlike a homeowner with a mortgage, who is entitled to keep the benefit of their labors and financial investment in a home, Vision’s purchasers do not accrue that benefit or build any equity,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit accuses Vision of misrepresenting the transaction by failing to disclose the cost of credit in its alternative financing arrangement and the significant issues with the condition of the home.

Furthermore, the lawsuit says, Vision targeted majority Black neighborhoods, purchasing 131 properties from the treasurer of Wayne County, for example, which has the highest Black population in the state at 40%.

“By advertising primarily through yard signs in Black neighborhoods, Vision marketed its home scam in a localized manner intended to reach almost exclusively Black homebuyers … due to their actual or perceived lack of other available options for homeownership,” the lawsuit says.

The full complaint can be found here.

Read the full complaint below:

Contact Adrienne Roberts: [email protected]

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