On Monday (August 15), Nathan Connolly, a professor at John Hopkins University, and Shani Mott filed a housing discrimination lawsuit in Maryland District Court almost a year after they sought to refinance their mortgage with loanDepot.
According to Connolly, he and his wife originally paid $450,000 for their Baltimore home in 2017.
They have since made renovations to the residence that value at more than $35,000, he added.
Considering the renovations and the value of Baltimore houses increasing by 42 percent over the past five years, Connolly and Mott said they were shocked to find out that their home was valued at a mere $472,000 by Maryland-based company 20/20 Valuations.
As a result of the low appraisal, mortgage lender loanDepot also denied the pair's application for a refinance loan.
The discrimination lawsuit alleges that 20/20 Valuations owner Shane Lanham, who conducted the initial inspection in June of 2021, lowballed their home due to their race.
“Dr. Connolly, Dr. Mott, and their three children were home during the visit, and their house was also filled with family photos, children’s drawings of figures with dark skin, a poster for the film Black Panther and literature by Black authors,” the lawsuit reads in part. “It would have been obvious to anyone visiting that the home belonged to a Black family.”
Following the first appraisal, Connolly and Mott reapplied for a loan after removing all indicators of race from their home in what the suit calls a "whitewashing experiment."
“They cleared their bookshelves of works by Black authors. They asked white friends to share family photos and placed those in picture frames around the house; on their walls, they hung art bought at Ikea that showed white people,” the Times reports.
The pair also had a white friend stand in for them during the new appraisal.
According to the suit, a second appraiser found their "whitewashed" home to be valued at $750,000, nearly $300k more than the first.
“We were clearly aware of appraisal discrimination,” Connolly said. “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.”
The suit against loanDepot, 20/20 Valuations, and Lanham alleges that the first appraiser falsely cited that the couple's home hadn't been updated in 15 years. It also accuses Lanham of purposefully choosing “low-value homes as comps” and ignoring “legitimately comparable homes with much higher sales prices.”