In explaining its view of the pleading standards in a disparate treatment discrimination case, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) shed light on its interpretation of the Truth in Lending Act’s (“TILA’s”) appraisal independence standards, providing that a lender is not required to rely on a biased appraisal.
The underlying case relates to a claim that an appraiser undervalued a home because of the homeowners’ race, and that the lender knew of the undervaluation. In mid-March, the CFPB and the Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in the case, addressing the applicability of nondiscrimination principles in the property valuation context. In doing so, the agencies also addressed the federal requirements for appraiser independence.
TILA and its Regulation Z prohibit lenders or other covered persons from coercing, instructing, or inducing an appraiser to cause the appraised value to be based on any factor other than the appraiser’s independent judgment. They also prohibit lenders from suborning any mischaracterization of a property’s appraised value or materially altering a property valuation. A lender that reasonably believes an appraiser has materially violated ethical or professional requirements must report the appraiser to the appropriate state agency. In addition, to comply with Regulation Z’s conflict-of-interest requirements, mortgage lenders generally ensure that the appraiser reports to a person who is not part of the lenders’ loan production function, and that no person in that function is involved in selecting the appraiser. Agencies and investors may impose additional requirements or prohibitions addressing appraisal independence.
The regulations expressly permit a lender to ask the appraiser to consider additional information, provide further detail or explanation, or correct errors. However, lenders must walk a fine line – while they may ask for additional information, explanations, or corrections, they are understandably careful in questioning an appraiser’s conclusions and are limited in their ability to obtain a second appraisal. (For instance, Fannie Mae generally prohibits its lenders from obtaining a second appraisal without a reasonable and documented basis for believing that the first appraisal is flawed.)