Black couple settles lawsuit over home valuation
A black couple has settled a lawsuit against a real estate company that appraised the value of their home in Marin City, California by nearly half a million dollars when a white friend posed as the owner.
Tenisha Tate-Austin and Paul Austin bought the home in December 2016 and then undertook a series of renovations. When they decided to refinance their home in 2020, the appraiser appraised the home at $995,000.
Three weeks later, the couple had the home appraised by another appraiser, but this time the couple removed all family photos and African-themed art. A white friend posed as the owner and placed pictures of his family in the home.
The home was valued at $1,482,500, according to the couple’s lawsuit alleging housing discrimination based on their race.
The lawsuit names the original appraisal company, Miller and Perotti Real Estate Appraisals, and AMC Links, which hired Miller and Perotti to do the appraisal.
Earlier this week, the couple announced through their attorneys that they had reached an agreement with the appraiser.
“Having to delete our identities to get a better rating was a painful experience,” Tenisha Tate-Austin said in a statement. “Black neighborhoods have historically been undervalued due to deliberately racist housing policies such as redlining. The continued undervaluation of homes in black neighborhoods perpetuates the wealth gap between black and white families.”
The couple settled the lawsuit with both companies for an undisclosed amount, according to a statement. Appraisers are also required to attend training courses that include the history of segregation and real estate discrimination and watch the documentary Our America: Lowballed, which chronicles the history of the Austins.
“We are glad to get this lawsuit behind us,” Paul Austin said in the statement. “Having to experience everything that came with the low rating was overwhelming. It helped to be able to tell our story and know that we have legal remedies.”
The Austins’ case and their decision to get a second appraisal with a white friend posing as the owner of their home made national headlines, but their story also drew attention to discrimination against minorities when looking for housing.
“This is a landmark case,” said Caroine Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, who also filed the lawsuit with the Austins. “The Austins’ case was a dramatic example of how an unreasonably low valuation can affect your ability to access a loan on good terms and build generational wealth. Unfortunately, their experience is not unique.”
The defendants’ lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-03-09/black-couple-settles-lawsuit-over-home-valuation Black couple settles lawsuit over home valuation