Black couple seeks justice in home appraisal discrimination lawsuit
“I've heard it said when Barack Obama was elected that we're in a post-racial America and nothing has been further from the truth than this snapshot of American history as of late.” — Activist Perry Redd
A Black couple is seeking justice after a home loan company and an appraiser allegedly discriminated against them by purposely undervaluing their home.
Nathan Connolly and Shani Mott filed a suit against appraiser Shane Lanham of 20/20 Valuations and loanDepot, a mortgage company, alleging that the two violated the Fair Housing Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Civil Rights Act because their home was undervalued on the basis of race.
According to ABC News, Connolly and Mott, professors at Johns Hopkins University, got their Baltimore home appraised. However, things went differently than they had hoped when Lanham valued the home at $472,000.
The couple originally purchased the house for $450,000 and figured the appraisal value was lower than expected because they spent an extra $50,000 on home renovations during the pandemic.
Refusing to settle, the couple found another appraiser and this time they removed any objects in their home that would indicate that a Black family occupied the residence. When the appraiser arrived, a white colleague of theirs answered the door. To their surprise, the appraiser valued the home at $750,000 — nearly $300,000 more than they were originally quoted.
In response to this case, U.S. Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said, “Discriminatory home appraisals are unlawful, perpetuate the racial wealth gap, and deny communities of color the benefits of homeownership.”
She added, “When appraisers or lenders treat homebuyers or homeowners differently because of race, they violate federal law.”
The department says it is working to make sure that the home-buying process is fair for everyone.
Zixta Martinez, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau deputy director issued a joint statement with the Justice Department. “Lenders that discriminate against people seeking homeownership perpetuate inequities that prevent communities from thriving,” Martinez said.
Activist Perry Redd told theGrio that this case “draws a direct line to redlining,” noting that this country has a history of discriminatory practices against homeowners. “I’ve heard it said when Barack Obama was elected that we’re in a post-racial America and nothing has been further from the truth than this snapshot of American history as of late.”
He continued, “By whitewashing the family’s home … it is indicative of the psyche of America. If a home looks like ‘Leave It to Beaver’ or like ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ then it is of more worth.”
U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron said in the statement, “Appraisal bias is a serious and ongoing issue in this country, and it is critical that the United States ensures the proper construction and application of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to hold appraisers and lenders accountable.”
Both loanDepot and Lanham, the appraiser, have moved to dismiss the lawsuit. In response, Connolly and Mott opposed the motions. Currently, the two parties are awaiting the U.S. District Court’s decision.
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