Firm named in Marin County real estate appraisal bias lawsuit gets settlement

A settlement has been reached with one of the parties named in a lawsuit that grabbed national attention for its allegations of racial bias in a Marin County home appraisal.

A nonprofit fair-housing legal advocacy group that brought the federal lawsuit with the homeowners announced a settlement deal with AMC Links LLC, a Utah-based appraisal management company named in the December 2021 federal lawsuit brought by homeowners Tenisha and Paul Tate-Austin. Terms of the agreement are confidential.

But the case is ongoing against the other defendants — appraiser Janette Miller and her San Rafael company, Miller and Perotti Real Estate Appraisals Inc. of San Rafael, according to Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California.

“We are in the discovery phase now, and the case is set for trial for fall of 2023,” Peattie told the Business Journal in an email Wednesday.

According to the complaint, Miller’s appraisal of the home was based on the race of the couple, who are Black, and Marin City neighborhood. The couple bought a Pacheco Street home in Marin City for $550,000 in December 2016 and refinanced it in 2020.

Miller valued the home at $995,000. The couple thought that was low and had another appraiser evaluate it. But first, they removed indications of the racial background of the owners. That valuation came in $1.48 million, close to the median market value for Marin at the time, court documents said.

Attorneys for Miller and her firm filed an answer in mid-September to an amended complaint, denying the allegations and calling for a jury trial.

The real estate industry has been coming to terms with bias in the business in recent years. The National Association of Realtors issued new guidelines in 2020 to guard against discrimination.

And earlier this month, the California Association of Realtors issued an apology for its endorsement in the 1950s and 1960s of “racial zoning, ‘redlining’ and racially restrictive covenants” and opposition to the state’s first fair-housing laws.

Peattie said her organization has filed two other administrative appraisal complaints about racial bias. One is with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity group, and the other with California’s Civil Rights Department.

She said the agencies are investigating the claims, but the matters haven’t been resolved yet.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before coming to the Business Journal in 1999, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. Reach him at or 707-521-4256.

Show Comment