The Hopatcong woman owns a home with her ex-fiancé. Their relationship ended two years ago, and he stopped paying his share of the mortgage in May 2010, Condon said. She tried but was unable to get a mortgage modification.
“[The modification] had been denied because together we made too much money,” she said. “At that point I was automatically reported to the credit reporting agencies as 120 days late even though I had been making [temporary modified] payments to them.
“I kind of gave up at that point,” she said, “and was probably about eight months behind when I met Dan.”
Dan Dekleine, a man who said he had a solution to her problem.
Dekleine explained he could help facilitate a short sale on her home, Condon said.
A short sale is when the bank agrees to sell a home for less than what is owed on the mortgage. The bank takes a loss but avoids foreclosure, which can take longer and be a more expensive process for the bank.
She signed a property management agreement on April 4, with Dekleine signing as an agent of United Capital Property Solutions of Clifton.
Condon agreed to pay $650 per month as a fee for services, and she said Dekleine said it would take about a year for the short sale to happen. He said he would list the home, try to get bidders and negotiate a short sale with the bank, she said.
After two months of making payments to Dekleine, Condon got a surprise.
Friends who had a similar contract with Dekleine said a lawyer told them their property management contract — reviewed by Bamboozled — was illegal.
Her friends recommended she contact their attorney to review her case.
THE LAWYER’S TAKE
Flanders-based real estate attorney Matthew Johnston is representing Condon pro bono regarding her contract with Dekleine.
“The agreement shows it’s clear it’s to negotiate the short sale,” Johnston said. “Under my interpretation of the state laws, only a licensed attorney or licensed real estate agent has the right to do a short sale.”
It’s not just Johnston’s interpretation. We talked to the Department of Banking and Insurance, which said property managers would generally “fall under the rubric of requiring the license.”
“It depends on the services,” said spokesman Marshall McKnight. “Generally, to be a property manager, you need to have a real estate license. The only thing a license wouldn’t necessarily be needed for might be repairs of the property.”
Public records show that Dekleine holds neither a real estate license nor an attorney’s license in New Jersey.
“The worst part of all of this is even if he had intentions to negotiate a short sale on her behalf, he can’t do it legally, so it seems his intent was not to get the property sold to third parties but his intent was to take the money each month until the house was foreclosed upon,” Johnston said.
Hefty allegations, for sure.
Johnston sent a letter, dated May 26, to Dekleine detailing his complaints about the contract and informing him that it would be terminated immediately.
This is what Johnston’s letter said:
“Pursuant to my research neither Mr. Dekleine, nor United Capital Property Solutions, LLC, are licensed by the New Jersey Banking Commission as a debt adjuster, nor a member of the New Jersey Bar. Therefore, neither are permitted to conduct such negotiations in the State of New Jersey and, thus, any ‘consulting’ is illegal.”
He also demanded Dekleine return any monies collected from Condon immediately.
“The word ‘manipulation’ is what struck me when I was listening to the story,” Johnston said. “It’s when folks like this come, in my opinion, and take advantage of people in bad situations, it’s just wrong.”
WHO IS THIS GUY?
Before we contacted Dekleine to ask about his contract with Condon, we wanted to learn more about his business history.
In 2003, Dekleine served 10 months of a four-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to theft by deception, racketeering and bribery of public officials for his involvement in an odometer-tampering case, according to court records and press reports.
When Bamboozled contacted Dekleine on June 3, he said he terminated his business relationship with Condon after receiving her attorney’s letter. Still, we wanted to know what kinds of services he had planned to provide under the contract. “We were facilitating a short sale,” he said. “Not me personally but my partner. It was a whole list of things.”
Dekleine said his partner was John De Costa, the man who signed Condon’s listing agreement.
He also said he and his attorney were in negotiations with Condon’s attorney to refund the property management fee.
But Condon’s attorney Johnston said he hadn’t yet heard from Dekleine.
A short time after we talked to Dekleine, Johnston reported he received a phone call from Dekleine, who verbally agreed to return Condon’s fees.
That’s great, but there was other unexplained business.
We wondered if John De Costa, who Dekleine claimed was his partner and a licensed real estate agent, had the credentials to negotiate a short sale.
The listing agreement he signed identified Exit Exclusive Realty of Clark as the broker of record.
The Department of Banking and Insurance doesn’t have a license for John De Costa, but it does have one for Joao Da Costa, and that person is listed as a salesperson for Exit Exclusive Realty.
We called Exit Exclusive Realty — about an hour’s drive from Condon’s home — to learn more.
“I just saw him one time when he came and said he wanted to work here,” said owner and broker of record Maria Gomes. “Since then he never showed up.”
That was on May 4, she said — two weeks after De Costa signed Condon’s agreement with the name Exit Exclusive Realty. Gomes said she took his license, which bore the name Joao Da Costa, and registered him with her company, expecting him to start work soon. He had not yet signed a contract with Gomes’ firm.
After that, she said, she hadn’t heard from him for more than a month.
Gomes confirmed De Costa never brought Condon’s listing to her attention, even though it’s customary for agents to bring listings to their brokers of record immediately so the contract can be made legal. “[Agents] have to present [listings] to me because they have to have my signature on it,” she said. “[The Condon contract] is not valid.”
That’s exactly correct.
“A listing agent has to sign in the same name that’s on his license and the broker of record must approve and sign off on all listing agreements,” said Banking and Insurance spokesman McKnight.
When John De Costa — or Joao Da Costa — answered our call, he said Condon was Dekleine’s client. He said he would call us back to talk more, but he never did.
We called Dekleine again, and he said he planned to return Condon’s $1,300 to her attorney Matthew Johnston. Johnston said that was news to him.
To date, Condon has not received her refund.
Maria Gomes said she has no plans to employ De Costa.
And the Department of Banking and Insurance seems to be interested. “We can’t talk about any specific case but rest assured, when something is brought to our attention as in this case, we will review it,” McKnight said.
We look forward to hearing more, Including whether Condon gets her refund.
“I feel like a victim,’’ she said, “and it’s really hard for me to process that people can be like that.”