A group of rogue former sales representatives for The Villages is claiming they were employees and not independent contractors working for the powerful sales arm of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
Properties of The Villages has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Middle District Court in Ocala against former sales agents, Jason Kranz, Christopher Day, Angela Kranz, Cynthia Hughes, Nanette Elliott, Jan Hickerson and Angie Taylor.
Day and Jason Kranz were top producers for The Villages sales arm before sending a bombshell email in December to their Properties of The Villages colleagues announcing they were founding their own real estate firm. They encouraged their former colleagues to join them in their new venture. The pair were soon served with notice of a lawsuit filed by Properties of The Villages, aimed at blocking the new real estate company launched by Day and Kranz.
In a document filed in court earlier this month, Day, Kranz and fellow former sales representatives lashed out at the Properties of The Villages’ famed independent contractor agreement, which they call “unconscionable.”
The rogue agents find fault with the independent contractor agreement for several reasons:
• In the court document, they claim Properties of The Villages “misclassified” the sales representatives as independent contractors when there were, in fact, employees. “They failed to pay the required minimum hourly wage; they failed to keep proper track of time records; they failed to pay the employer’s share of employees’ taxes.”
• The document also alleges that the representatives were not adequately paid commissions. “Each new home sold in The Villages and each used home, for a period of time, is sold with the requirement that the purchaser pay a bond. This is a sum of money that typically and historically was paid by a developer for infrastructure prior to the sale of the property. These sums would then be included in the purchase price of the property. These sums in the bond constitute a part of the purchase price and Properties of The Villages failed to pay commissions to the Defendants on this part of the purchase price,” they claim.
• They also claimed Properties of The Villages “would take unauthorized and improper deductions and set-offs from commissions due and owing to the Defendants.”
• Properties of The Villages would require the sales representatives to be present at mandatory meetings, open houses and paid speaker seminars.
• Properties of The Villages would require the sales representatives to purchase advertising.
• The former sales representatives also point out that Properties of The Villages provided them with use of its sales office, marketing materials and office products for use in business. They were also provided keys to the sales office.
• They also complained that the independent contractor agreement “contains an ever-expanding territory.” The agreement required the sales agent to “accept this ever-expanding territory as part of their non-compete.” They said they had “no control over this expanding territory.” The independent contractor agreement includes a 24-month non-compete clause.
The lawsuit grinds on during what must be a difficult time for Properties of The Villages, due to the Coronavirus crisis. The sales office at Lake Sumter Landing has been closed and no open houses appear to be taking place. The Alden Bungalows and Atwood Bungalows near Brownwood typically lodge potential buyers, but this weekend both sets of bungalows were deserted with the exception of the few homeowners there. The opportunity for sales representatives to show off “The Villages lifestyle” has vanished with the cancellation of music at the town squares, the closure of the swimming pools and the shutdown of the dining rooms at restaurants.