Black couple settles lawsuit after value of home soared when white friend pretended to be owner

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By VT

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A Black couple has settled their fair housing lawsuit against a real estate company after their home appraisal was a whopping $500,000 less than their white friend managed to attain for the same property.

Tenisha Tate-Austin and Paul Austin of Marin City, California, accused their appraiser of undervaluing their home by 50% back in 2020 because they are Black, as per a press release published by the Fair Housing Advocates of​ Northern California (FHANC) on Monday.

Tenisha and Paul wanted to refinance their home and had the property valued by an appraiser.

They were stunned when their house was appraised at $995,000 as this was just $100,000 more than what it was valued at before it had undergone major renovations, which cost them an eyewatering $400,000.

"The Austins believed that their race and the racial demographics of Marin City played a role in the low estimate of value and requested a second appraisal," a statement from the FHANC explained.

When the couple got a white friend to pretend to be Tenisha, the value of the home soared by a staggering $500,000, meaning the overall value shot up to $1,482,000.

The couple - who share two children - had also removed any items that would have served as evidence of their race when the home underwent its second, much higher appraisal.

FHANC stated that in of July 2019, 36 percent of the residents in Marin City were Black, compared to less than 3 percent of the county as a whole.

"Appraisers likely still view neighborhoods and relevant comps based on racial demographics, which is part of what what we believe happened in the Austins’ case," their statement read.

The Austins - who filed their fair housing lawsuit against the appraiser in December 2021 - will be paid an undisclosed amount as part of the settlement.

Also as part of the agreement, the defendants will be required to watch the documentary film Our America: Lowballed about discrimination in American real estate which features the plaintiffs' story. They will also have to attend a training session on the history of racial discrimination in real estate.

Paul Austin said in the press release: "We're glad that we can put this lawsuit behind us. Having to experience everything that came with receiving the lowballed appraisal was overwhelming.

"Being able to tell our story and knowing we had legal recourse helped. We want others to know that if you experience discrimination, you can go to your local fair housing agency so they can investigate your case and help you if you want to file a complaint."

Tenisha added: "We missed out on a better interest rate because of the unfair appraisal we received. Having to erase our identity to get a better appraisal was a wrenching experience.

"The ongoing undervaluation of homes in Black neighborhoods perpetuates the wealth gap between Black and white families. We hope by bringing attention to our case and this lawsuit settlement, we can help change the way the appraisal industry operates, and we can start to see a different trend."

Featured image credit: Sérgio Nogueira / Alamy

Black couple settles lawsuit after value of home soared when white friend pretended to be owner

vt-author-image

By VT

Article saved!Article saved!

A Black couple has settled their fair housing lawsuit against a real estate company after their home appraisal was a whopping $500,000 less than their white friend managed to attain for the same property.

Tenisha Tate-Austin and Paul Austin of Marin City, California, accused their appraiser of undervaluing their home by 50% back in 2020 because they are Black, as per a press release published by the Fair Housing Advocates of​ Northern California (FHANC) on Monday.

Tenisha and Paul wanted to refinance their home and had the property valued by an appraiser.

They were stunned when their house was appraised at $995,000 as this was just $100,000 more than what it was valued at before it had undergone major renovations, which cost them an eyewatering $400,000.

"The Austins believed that their race and the racial demographics of Marin City played a role in the low estimate of value and requested a second appraisal," a statement from the FHANC explained.

When the couple got a white friend to pretend to be Tenisha, the value of the home soared by a staggering $500,000, meaning the overall value shot up to $1,482,000.

The couple - who share two children - had also removed any items that would have served as evidence of their race when the home underwent its second, much higher appraisal.

FHANC stated that in of July 2019, 36 percent of the residents in Marin City were Black, compared to less than 3 percent of the county as a whole.

"Appraisers likely still view neighborhoods and relevant comps based on racial demographics, which is part of what what we believe happened in the Austins’ case," their statement read.

The Austins - who filed their fair housing lawsuit against the appraiser in December 2021 - will be paid an undisclosed amount as part of the settlement.

Also as part of the agreement, the defendants will be required to watch the documentary film Our America: Lowballed about discrimination in American real estate which features the plaintiffs' story. They will also have to attend a training session on the history of racial discrimination in real estate.

Paul Austin said in the press release: "We're glad that we can put this lawsuit behind us. Having to experience everything that came with receiving the lowballed appraisal was overwhelming.

"Being able to tell our story and knowing we had legal recourse helped. We want others to know that if you experience discrimination, you can go to your local fair housing agency so they can investigate your case and help you if you want to file a complaint."

Tenisha added: "We missed out on a better interest rate because of the unfair appraisal we received. Having to erase our identity to get a better appraisal was a wrenching experience.

"The ongoing undervaluation of homes in Black neighborhoods perpetuates the wealth gap between Black and white families. We hope by bringing attention to our case and this lawsuit settlement, we can help change the way the appraisal industry operates, and we can start to see a different trend."

Featured image credit: Sérgio Nogueira / Alamy