A Black couple in Baltimore has sued a local real estate appraiser and an online mortgage loan provider, claiming that their housing appraisal was unfairly undervalued based on their race.
The New York Times reports that Dr. Nathan Connolly and his wife, Dr. Shani Mott, both professors at Johns Hopkins University, had their home appraised last year, hoping to take advantage of low-interest rates to refinance their mortgage.
The couple purchased their Baltimore home in 2017 for $450,000 and made $40,000 in renovations to it. However, 20/20 Valuations, the company that performed the appraisal, valued the house at only $472,000. Additionally, mortgage lender Loan Depot denied the couple a refinance loan.
A few months after that first appraisal, Connolly and his wife applied for another refinance loan. This time they took down personal photos of the family and had a white colleague from Johns Hopkins pretend to be the homeowner.
The second appraisal valued the home at $750,000, which is more than a quarter-million dollars higher than the $472,00 appraisal by 20/20 Valuations.
Connolly, an expert on housing discrimination known as redlining says he knew that this was a matter of race. He and his wife have sued LoanDepot and Shane Lanham, the owner of 20/20 Valuations, who performed the initial appraisal.
“We were clearly aware of appraisal discrimination,” Connolly, 44, told the Times. “But to be told in so many words that our presence and the life we’ve built in our home brings the property value down? It’s an absolute gut punch.”
According to the complaint, the couple is suing Lanham, 20/20 Valuations LLC, and loanDepot for violations of the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and Maryland Fair Housing Laws.