Paul Austin and Tenisha Tate-Austin, along with the nonprofit Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, have settled their appraisal discrimination lawsuit against Janette Miller and her company, Miller & Perotti Real Estate Appraisals. In addition to an unspecified financial settlement, the terms include an order for the appraiser to watch a documentary the couple was featured in about their experience.
The Austins alleged that the defendants supplied them with an appraisal that undervalued their house because they are Black.
The suit alleged that the Austins hired Miller to appraise their Marin City home, where, despite investing some $400,000 worth of improvements, Miller appraised the property at $995,000; far lower than previous appraisals.
The Austins then asked a friend, who is white, to pretend to be the home’s owner and request another appraisal. The Austins first “whitewashed” their home, removing family photos and African-themed art. Upon the new appraisal, the home came in at $1.48 million—nearly a half-million more than the previous estimate.
Paul Austin told the California Reparations Task Force that he believes the property was devalued “because we are in a Black neighborhood, and the home belonged to a Black family,” according to the Washington Post.
The couple sued for financial damages and asked the court to order the defendants to ensure they won’t discriminate when appraising houses in the future.
In a statement, Paul Austin said, “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.”
Tenisha Tate-Austin added, “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.”