Bryan Cohen Jun. 6, 2013, 6:07pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) -- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Wednesday a judgment against a Surry County-based real estate seller who allegedly put more than 20 locals in danger of losing their homes.

Cooper alleged that Nichols Land Company misled consumers who entered into installment contracts with the company by promising the consumers they would own the property in time.

Nichols Land Company allegedly borrowed against the properties and defaulted on the loans, nearly costing more than 20 consumers their homes to foreclosure.

"People who wanted a place of their own made payments in good faith but almost lost their homes anyway," Cooper said in a statement. "We work to stop deceptive land deals to keep consumers from getting hurt."

Wake County Superior Court Judge Wayne Abernathy approved a judgment Tuesday that permanently banned Nichols Land Company and its principals, James Nichols, Samuel Nichols, Roger Nichols and Tina Nichols, from selling real estate through installment sales.

The order prohibits the defendants from any property sales in which consumers agree to pay the purchase price in five or more payments while the defendants retain the property title.

A violation of the court order would result in the payment of $200,000 in civil penalties for the defendants.

"A home is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make," Cooper said. "Before you agree to any real estate deal, do your homework carefully."

More News