The Department of Justice has intervened in a lawsuit alleging appraisal discrimination in Maryland. 

The DOJ announced this week that its civil rights attorneys filed a “statement of interest” in the case of Nathan Connolly and his wife, Shani Mott’s lawsuit against appraisal firm 20/20 Valuation and the appraisal firm’s owner Shane Lanham, The Guardian reported

The statement was filed in a federal district court in Maryland. The DOJ noted that President Joe Biden had identified the issue “as a priority for the federal government,” according to the article.

The two Johns Hopkins professors alleged that their home was undervalued by 20/20 Valuation, and that as a result loanDepot denied their refinance application. But once the home was whitewashed, the value rose significantly—by nearly $300,000.

Federal civil rights attorneys said Connolly and Mott needed to “only plausibly allege that defendants acted with discriminatory intent” to show that the appraiser and lender violated the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act, according to the Guardian. 

The DOJ also argued that loanDepot “could be held liable for relying on an appraisal that it knows or should know to be discriminatory,” the article said, adding that Connolly and Mott also did not have to show an underlying Fair Housing Act violation to make their racial discrimination claim.

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