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Appraisal Bias Focus Continues in 2024

BY: Morey Barnes Yost, Nanci Weissgold
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What Happened?

Building on the 2021 announcement of the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (“PAVE”) and a series of federal agency actions in the intervening months, 2024 brings new efforts at the state and federal levels to address appraisal bias and promote fair valuations.  Notably, a new version of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (“USPAP”) is in effect, prohibiting discrimination.

Why Is It Important?


As of January 1, the amended USPAP (the operational standards that govern real property appraisal practice) includes updates to the Ethics Rule that expressly prohibit appraisers from engaging in both unethical discrimination and illegal discrimination.  An appraiser cannot engage in illegal discrimination, which includes acting in a manner that violates or contributes to a violation of applicable anti-discrimination laws or regulations, including, but not limited to, the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”), and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

The prohibition also encompasses unethical discrimination – developing an opinion of value based or with bias with respect on an actual or perceived protected characteristic of any person, “upon the premise that homogeneity of the inhabitants of a geographic area is relevant for the appraisal,” or using a characteristic to attempt to conceal a bias in the performance of an appraisal assignment.

OCC Hearing on Appraisal Bias:

On February 13, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) held the fourth of the Appraisal Subcommittee’s public hearing on appraisal bias.  Representatives of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (“FFIEC”) regulatory agencies (the Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, National Credit Union Administration, and OCC), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Housing Financial Agency took questions from individuals speaking on behalf of the Appraisal Foundation, the Mississippi and Texas state appraiser regulatory boards, and the appraisal profession.

The discussion focused on efforts to combat appraisal bias, including through diversification of the appraisal profession.

FFIEC Statement on Valuation Bias:

On February 14, the FFIEC on behalf of its member entities outlined consumer compliance and safety and soundness examination principles to “promote credible appraisals” and mitigate risk from valuation practices due to potential discrimination. Through this guidance, the FFIEC encourages institutions to establish a formal valuation program “to identify noncompliance with appraisal regulations, USPAP, inaccuracies, or poorly supported valuations.”

The guidance identifies: (a) ECOA, the FHA, the Truth in Lending Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act as the applicable consumer protection laws; and (b) Title XI of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 and USPAP as safety and soundness requirements.

Under the guidance, the consumer compliance examination principles focus primarily on compliance with consumer protection requirements and prohibitions on discrimination relating to valuation practices.  The FFIEC designed these principles to ensure that an institution’s board and management oversight, third party risk management and compliance management program (including policies and procedures, training, monitoring and/or audit, and consumer complaint handling) are commensurate with the size of the institution and appropriate to identify potentially discriminatory valuation practices or results.

Similarly, the FFIEC’s safety and soundness examination principles focus on financial condition and operations relating to the review and assessment of an “institution’s practices for identifying, monitoring and controlling the risk of valuation discrimination or bias.” Such assessments are similar to the consumer compliance examination principles, but also include an evaluation of the collateral valuation program and valuation review function, credit risk review function, and consideration of materiality in relation to the institution’s overall lending activities.

New Jersey Anti-Discrimination Initiative

Following other states (such as Texas) that have stepped up anti-discrimination efforts, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and Division on Civil Rights provided guidance on their enforcement of the state’s Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) in home appraisals.

The guidance clarifies that LAD applies not only to appraisers, but also to “’any person’ who is involved in the ‘furnishing of facilities or services’ or ‘involved in the making or purchasing of any loan or extension of credit,” and thus encompasses bank and non-bank mortgage lenders, appraisal management companies (“AMCs”), insurance companies, and others.

The guidance also expressly prohibits subject individuals and entities from: (a) engaging in disparate treatment of individuals (e.g., borrowers) based on protected characteristics; (b) maintaining policies or practices that have unlawful disparate impacts; or (c) submitting or relying on an appraisal that is known (or should be known) to be discriminatory.

What Do I Need to Do?

While the above actions will impact lenders, appraisers, and AMCs differently, overall they indicate regulators’ continued (and increased) attention to fair valuations matters.  Lenders and AMCs should ensure that their in-house appraisal processes prohibit engagement in discriminatory valuations, their compliance management programs are well documented and working appropriately, and that they have escalation processes in place to address any alleged issues that may arise.  (We routinely provide compliance management system readiness reviews.)  Appraisers need to keep abreast not only of the new USPAP requirements, but also of changes to state continuing education requirements that implicate fair valuations.

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