There’s now confirmation that a company that’s been the subject of a Local 5 Investigation, is now being investigated by the Wisconsin attorney general’s office.
We spoke with half a dozen former employees of Vision Property Management. Two of them agreed to be interviewed for this report, but only if we hid their identities.
They confirm what many suspected – that the company knew exactly what it was doing when it offers substandard housing as rent-to-own opportunities.
“We knew we were putting people into situations that they couldn’t handle.”
That’s how one former employee describes his time at the company who specializes in lease-to-own housing – claiming to give potential tenants a chance to become homeowners, regardless of poor credit.
“What initially started as us trying to help folks get on their feet, was more like those title loan companies. Like car places where you’re just taking advantage of them – not explaining everything that’s going on, jacking up the interest and then leaving them holding the bag,” said another employee.
After 5 Investigates dug deeper into some properties in the Green Bay area, some former employees offered to give us more insight into the culture of the company.
“My big problem with the culture there was that we knowingly manipulated people’s bad situations for our own gain. When people presented us with their problems like ‘oh i need a little help with this, i need a little bit of help with that, i can’t swing that,’ they were pretty much ridiculed. They were never worked with.”
This was especially relevant when it came to contract agreements and inspections. Houses advertised in the Green Bay area consisted of broken pipes, rotting floors, crumbling roofs and much more.
“An inspection is done with the purchase of every single property. It’s kind of a brief one, but it gives us a good idea of what shape the property is in. That information isn’t always translated or shared correctly.”
“When the customer ended up signing the contract and there were liens or the pipes were missing, we could say ‘well we had a recorded phone call with you, I instructed you to go find that out.’ But by nature, we weren’t dealing with the most sophisticated real-estate consumer. So I can say ‘go to the clerk of court, go look up public records’ all day long, but if you don’t know how to do that or if you don’t even know what I’m talking about and you just want to get off the phone with me so you can get into this house, just say yeah all day long.”
“If they’re already in a financial situation that puts them in a position to be working with a company like this, they probably can’t afford to throw down several hundred dollars to have an inspector come in and look at all this stuff. Often times when they do, the inspectors are appalled like, ‘no, no don’t buy this!'”
“We sold a considerable amount of houses to people who were making a $721 month social security check – and with $228 monthly payments, they had no business living in the house. They obviously didn’t have the means to repair it themselves or pay somebody to repair it. I knew that was happening from the jump and that made me uncomfortable.”
One of the former employee was responsible for much of the official paperwork, including deeds on the properties. She says Vision would buy properties in bulk and wanted the deeds processed quickly so the investor could send the money. However when it came to sending the information to the particular county, a sales tax had to be paid. This was something Vision tried to avoid through their LLC – Kaja Holdings.
“I would sometimes record two or three deeds at a time for one actual sale or one actual purchase, and no tax would be paid because Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maryland have higher taxes. They yelled at me and told me they refused to pay that tax and I would need to find a loophole. There were some that were legit, but the majority of them we just didn’t send them in. We were told that ‘we’ll just pay it if we get caught, but if we don’t, we’re not paying the government a dime,’ and so that’s what I did.”
She added that many times she was told to get the deeds to the county overnight so Vision could get it processed in the tenants name before they found out – even if the house had many repairs needed or was up for demolition.
“Once it’s in their name, they can’t do anything about it. They can be mad and call us, but they can’t really do anything because it’s in their name. It’s just some really shady practices.”
The employees say Vision simply leaves their customers holding the bag.
“Each one of them had a story, and each one of them wanted to tell it to us – and we didn’t care.”
“There’s a lot of customers who have complained and who have lost their homes when they thought they were going to be there forever and raise their families there, and it was taken from them because of these manipulative practices.”
Our 5 investigates team has been reaching out to Vision Property Management for their comment on this story since July. We contacted them again Thursday, and they said they are not interested in giving an interview.
Aside from this new investigation by the attorney general’s office here in Wisconsin, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office has launched an investigation into the company’s practices as well.
We’ve also learned some more about where Vision gets its financial backing. We’ll be looking into that in the months to come.
Anyone who has complaints or concerns about Vision Property Management should contact Attorney General Brad Schimel’s consumer protection office at 608-266-8063.