A Black couple successfully settled their lawsuit against a real estate company that undervalued their home by $500,000 as a result of their race.
Tenisha Tate-Austin and Paul Austin of Marin City, California, made headlines in 2020 when their home was grossly undervalued during an appraisal for refinancing. The couple upgraded the house by increasing its square footage. Despite the many additions, Janette Miller and her firm, Miller and Perotti Real Estate Appraisers, only valued the house at $995,000, which was far below what the Austins expected to hear. After that, the couple concocted a plan where they removed all remnants of their race from the residence. They spent three weeks removing photos and other identifiers and hired a different appraiser. This time around, they asked a white friend to pretend the house was theirs. After that, the second assessor valued the house at $1,482,500.
In December 2021, the couple filed a racial discrimination lawsuit fair housing lawsuit against the initial appraiser, claiming they purposefully undervalued the home because the couple was Black. The Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California supported the couple’s case.
“Even decades after the Fair Housing Act of 1968, we still find evidence of housing discrimination fairly often,” said FHANC Supervising Attorney Julia Howard-Gibbon in a statement to NBC News.
Unfortunately, white-washing a home during appraisal is not an uncommon practice among Black homeowners. Howard-Gibbon revealed this has been going on for years, with Blacks in real estate privy to the racism surrounding the valuation process.
As part of the settlement, the Austins received an undisclosed amount of money, as well as a promise that the appraiser would no longer discriminate against Black homeowners. Additionally, the appraiser must undergo training and watch the ABC documentary “Our America: Lowballed,” a special that follows couples of color fighting back against unfair home appraisals.