Toronto·CBC Investigates

GTA realtor 'tricked' him and his wife into selling home, blind man says

A man with a disability says a realtor from a Royal LePage brokerage “tricked” him and his wife into selling their east-end Toronto home, and cost them tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

Real estate agent says he has 'never wavered' from caring for his clients

Harold Verge, 72, is blind and says a GTA real estate agent 'tricked' him and his wife into selling their home. (John Grierson/CBC News)

A man with a disability says a realtor from a Royal LePage brokerage "tricked" him and his wife into selling their east end Toronto home and cost them tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

Harold Verge, 72, is blind. His wife also suffers from a series of debilitating health issues. Last month, they lost the home they owned for the past 24 years when it was sold, against their will, they say.

The agent, Vince Iannello, while not denying any of the specific allegations, says he has "never wavered" from caring for his clients. For its part, Royal LePage says it is investigating the Verges' case.

But the Verges say their ordeal began when Iannello, a realtor with Royal LePage Your Community Realty in Vaughan, offered to help the couple renew their two mortgages, according to Verge.

"When my wife was trying to read the paperwork, he kept saying, 'Don't read it, sign it, sign it,'" Verge recalled Iannello telling her.

"We thought we were only signing to renew our mortgages."

Harold Verge makes money by weaving cane for chair restorations. (John Lancaster/CBC News)

Days after the mortgages were renewed, the Verges say Iannello returned to their home and told them it was going to be sold. CBC News has reviewed the mortgage renewal documents, both in the Verges' home and at their lawyer's office.

"He said he's going to sell our house whether we like it or not, because we're not allowed to own our house after you're 65 years old," Verge said.  

"He said he had to do his part to sell it." 

There are no laws in Canada preventing seniors from owning property.

"I think he tricked us into it. My wife feels the same way. He tricked us," Verge said about listing the home for sale.

Iannello also allegedly told the couple his wife had just given birth to a third child, and that the realtor needed money, according to Verge.

Last month, the Verges moved into a small rented bungalow several kilometres away after their home was sold. 

"I wake up in the middle of the night tormented and in fear," Verge told CBC News.

"What's going to happen next?" he said, pointing to stacks of boxes piled high in the living room of the rented bungalow.

"I'm afraid if I unpack everything, and the landlord says you have to get out, you have to move, we've got to worry about packing and moving again," he said.

Iannello paid their first and last months' rent once their home was sold. 

Vince Iannello is a real estate agent with Royal LePage Your Community In brokerage.

'They were fooled,' lawyer says

Verge and his wife Florence bought their 2.5-storey, semi-detached home  at 42 Connaught Ave, in the Queen Street East and Greenwood Avenue area, in 1995.

The couple was in good standing financially, despite their modest incomes and their two mortgages.

Harold Verge weaves cane to repair seats and backrests on antique chairs. Florence Verge retired after working 30 years at a McDonald's restaurant.

Iannello declined to answer numerous questions from CBC News. In an emailed statement he said he wasn't able to due to legal reasons.

"I was surprised to be contacted by the CBC regarding these allegations," he wrote.

Commitment to Verges 'is genuine,' Iannello says

"My commitment to the Verges is genuine and I am disappointed that no further details can be provided by me at this time due to the potential for litigation," his email reads.

The Verges, with the help of a concerned friend, have since hired a lawyer to look into the situation.

"They were fooled," Charles Wagman, the Verges' lawyer, told CBC News.

"There was pressure because of the idea they had to sell, that they weren't entitled at law to own property anymore. That's what the Verges say motivated them to sell." 

Wagman says the home was also sold for below market value.

"It appears the property was grossly undersold."

Harold and Florence Verge bought their home at 42 Connaught Ave. in Toronto in 1995. (John Babcock/CBC News)

In a complaint to the brokerage, Wagman accuses Iannello of negligence, noting the realtor didn't list the Verges' home on the Multiple Listing Service. The website is widely used by realtors to list homes for sale and attract a larger pool of potential buyers.

Instead, Iannello sent an email to other agents at the Royal LePage Your Community Realty brokerage letting them know the Verge's home was available.

CBC News obtained a copy of the email. In it, Iannello claimed the Verges were "motivated sellers."

"They were the opposite of motivated sellers. They didn't want to sell," said Wagman.

House sold for less than any other on the street recently

Nine days after being listed, the Verges' home was sold with the help of one of Iannello's colleagues at Royal LePage Your Community Realty.

Realtor Leslie-Jane Patterson's clients bought the Verges' home for $675 000.

In an email that Patterson wrote to another potential buyer, she noted the home had been appraised at $750 000. She described the home as being in "rough shape" but added it had upgraded hydro service, water systems and a newer furnace.

Patterson described the Verges' home as an "opportunity" and told her client, two other  2.5 storey, semi-detached homes on the same street recently sold for $880 000 and $886 000 each.

"I have zero vested interest in this property other than helping these poor souls that appear to be being taken advantage of. I had no idea of the situation when I took my investors through the property today — if anything I was told not to engage in conversing with the vendor, oops!!!" she wrote in the email.

Leslie-Jane Patterson is a real estate agent with Royal LePage Your Community Inc. (royallepage.ca)

It's not clear who Patterson believed was taking advantage of the Verges.

She declined to respond to specific questions from CBC News, and hung up when reached by phone.

In a later email to CBC News, she provided no specifics about the situation.

"Nothing brings me more joy than helping my clients successfully navigate their home sales and purchases. I take great pride and care in my work. I respect the privacy of my clients and it would be inappropriate for me to comment in any additional manner," she wrote.

Patterson, Iannello and the brokerage pocketed more than $33 000 in commissions from the sale.

In his email, Iannello suggested he did nothing wrong.

"I have never wavered from always caring about the well being of my clients. Until this is resolved, I will not have an opportunity to discuss this further," he wrote.

'Looking into the details' of Verges' case, Royal LePage says 

Representatives from Royal LePage's corporate head office also declined to answer any specific questions about the home sale.

In an emailed statement, the company's director of communications suggested the matter is being investigated.

"Royal LePage's brand is built on integrity, a strong commitment to the community and the best interests of consumers," Sarah Louise Gardiner wrote.

"Our brokerages are independently owned and operated and we are looking into the details of this specific situation. We cannot discuss it further at this time."


 

About the Author

John Lancaster

Senior Reporter, CBC Toronto

John Lancaster is a senior reporter with CBC News focusing on investigative and enterprise journalism. His stories have taken him across Canada, the US and the Caribbean. His reports have appeared on CBC Toronto, The National, CBC's Marketplace, The Fifth Estate-and of course CBC online and radio. Drop him a line anytime at john.lancaster@cbc.ca.