You might think the role of county register of deeds is a pretty narrow one – keep the land documents records safe and up to date, record transactions accurately, and provide the public access to real estate records, vital records in a legal, effective and efficient way.
Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen and his office does all those things, but Thigpen is also very activist in addressing financial threats to county residents – as he was when MV Realty of Florida came to his attention in late 2022.
Recently, State House Bill 422, which attempts to address predatory practices against homeowner, was signed into law. The bill is especially directed at MV Realty, which Thigpen and many other government officials said deceives homeowners.
MV Realty began doing business in the state in August 2020, with its deceptively named “Homeowner Benefit Program.”
“This was a real team effort here,” Thigpen said. “The Governor, the attorney general, the General Assembly, the Real Estate Commission, North Carolina Realtors and North Carolina Registers of Deeds.”
He added that Democrats and Republicans both fought against the deceptive practices.
Thigpen, who also worked very hard during the 2008 financial crisis and after to expose wrongdoing by financial institutions, was one of the first people in North Carolina sounding the alarm bells against MV Realty.
Since his office handles real estate transaction records, he saw the threat first hand. Thigpen started contacting state officials, the media, other elected officials and anyone else who could get the word out.
Others did join the fight.
On Tuesday, March 21, NC Attorney General Josh Stein announced that his office had filed a lawsuit against the real estate brokerage firm as well as against the company’s leaders. The suit alleged that the company “violated North Carolina’s laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive practices, usurious lending, abusive telephone solicitation practices, and unfair debt collection practices by tricking homeowners into signing oppressive, 40-year real estate agreements.“
That suit, once decided, could further damage the company.
“Beers all around is what I say!” Thigpen said soon after the bill became a new law.
“This legislation sends a strong message,” Thigpen said. “Effectively, the governor and General Assembly just presented MV Realty with a ‘boot to their rump’ and notice from all of us to ‘get off North Carolinians property!’”
He also said the new law reigns in the company’s business practices going forward, but added that the state isn’t done.
“Many of us are waiting for the final knockout blow,” Thigpen said.
The attorney general’s law suit seeks to invalidate MV Realty’s existing agreements. A court victory would help more than 160 homeowners in Guilford and more than 2,000 others across the state.
“If successful, we could run MV Realty out of North Carolina for good,” he said.
Thigpen has submitted an affidavit as a Register of Deeds in the lawsuit along with several affected Guilford County families.
“We have real skin in the game with over 160 families impacted by these deceptive agreements.”