Security Bars Removal Law Debunks Alleged Racial Discrimination

Alleged Racial Discrimination Debunked: Security Bars Removal Required by Law

Complainant stated appraiser told them they should remove security bars from windows. Complainant stated this is evidence of “racist discrimination”… Security bars on bedroom windows is against code… 

This morning I received the results of a California State Information Act Request I made regarding an alleged case of racial bias in Allendale, Oakland, California which was settled May 2024. I requested any and all documents in the case involving the appraiser because I didn’t have the complainant’s name or property address. I only had the appraiser’s name which I won’t post in text.

Complainant stated appraiser told them they should remove security bars from windows. Complainant stated this is evidence of “racist discrimination” based on “racism/includes hairstyle and hair texture.” Security bars on bedroom windows is against code in California since about 1995. All appraisers, lenders tell everyone to remove the bars because it’s the law and prevents people especially children from burning to death in a fire.

Response to State Information Act Request. They redacted name and address.

Summary of response. They redacted name and address.

Press release from Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California about the case.

census tract 4070, Allendale, Oakland, California

I was hoping for an address or name so I could check the values by doing historical valuations. No such luck but I did get other vital information from the complaint, see below. This information shows the first appraisal probably wasn’t biased but the second higher one probably was. I will say that census tract 4070, Allendale, Oakland, California is an area going through revitalization and rapid home appreciation. (FHANC are the ones who stated the tract. Appraisers don’t look at tract information. I’m looking at it now because FHANC mentioned it in their complaint. Allendale is almost exact same area as the tract) If you look at the census map linked directly above, the MacArthur Fwy 580 goes through the tract. Generally freeways are initially built through areas which had lower values because it’s cheaper for the city, county, state to purchase the land. Allendale is across the bay from much higher priced San Francisco. People priced out of SanFran have been pushed over into Allendale, Oakland for years now. This is why prices in Allendale and the surrounding area have been increasing rapidly especially for fully renovated properties. Properties near freeways vary more in value based on proximity, view of the freeway. This is a map of Allendale on Google. Here is Zillow (I know, I know) chart of home appreciation in Allendale over time. Zillow is okay for trends but not for specific home values.

Zillow Allendale Trend

We do know that the subject property needed repairs. An older property in an area going through revitalization is a more complex appraisal. It will be worth less than similar properties which have been fully renovated. The cost to renovate an older home in this area can easily run $250,000. Most of these homes, duplexes were built 1900-1930.

FHANC states Allendale is a “black neighborhood” which is a racist statement. Census docs state the inhabitants are mainly Latino, Asian, White, Black in that order of percentages. “Black” is actually the smallest percentage of the population in that area. This shows a false statement and bias by FHANC. Census docs state median value of owner occupied homes in area today May 2024 is $702,200 ±$68,592. 78% of homes worth $500-$1M. Only 8% worth over $1M. The home was worth less at the time of appraisal 2021. Median prices for the area were lower then.

The owner stated she had two recent previous and one subsequent appraisal on the property. That’s a red flag right there. Why did she make so many recent loan applications? Clearly the previous loans were probably denied or she wouldn’t be seeking yet another loan. This would also cause more credit inquiries which make it more difficult and expensive to get a loan. A good loan agent would have explained all of these things to her before doing a credit check or appraisal. Sometimes you need to work on credit or the property before doing a credit inquiry or appraisal or you’ll just get rejected and have to wait six months minimum to reapply.

The owner stated the property needed work. “Ms. Trent applied to a mortgage company to refinance her home loan and to use some of the equity to finance needed repairs and renovations.” “I was relying on being approved for the loan to in order to make improvements to my heating and bathroom going into the winter.” Many banks will not give a conventional loan on a property if it needs major repairs or is in less than average or fair condition. The appraisal value is not the only reason why a loan could be denied. Sometimes lenders just state that when it’s not true to deflect blame, complaints and lawsuits. Even if the loan to value ratio were higher than the borrower desired, the borrower could get a higher LTV ratio loan if they had good credit and/or paid a higher rate.

She claims the appraiser made racist, racially charged statements which were “critical of her and her home specifically that her security bars should be removed.One interesting note is that the complainant states she was discriminated against based on her “Race (includes hairstyle and hair texture).” She claims she was “Denied equal terms and conditions; Denied loan/home owners insurance.” She claims the appraiser made racist, racially charged statements which were “critical of her and her home specifically that her security bars should be removed.” Unreleasable security bars must be removed from bedroom windows because people can die in a fire. They can be replaced with bars which release from the inside so people can escape a fire. That’s not racist but California Health and Safety, Building Code and the law since 1995-1998! Here is the Oakland security bar law. I’ve said that to everyone with security bars even when I don’t see or know what the owner looks like.

She claims the appraiser adjusted sold comps down $150,000 to $200,000 based on their superior condition. She stated her home needed work. We’re supposed to adjust for condition. She stated appraiser only used two comps in area with more “white people” unlike her area. She wanted “white” comps just like the last case in Oakland. Again, it’s the race income home value correlation and not race home value. Whites make more money than Latinos, blacks. People who make more money have more money and buy/own more expensive homes in more expensive areas. The correlation is not race/color = home value.

She goes on to mention “redlining” maps from 1935-1968. Here’s an article I wrote about redlining. The maps were made by the government’s Home Owners Loan Corporation to determine property risk factors so the government could give people cheaper loans to help the economy. It included many factors which we still use today. Some maps included race, nationality of inhabitants, not owners of the properties getting the loans. Race, nationality were omitted in 1968. Race, nationality were a mere correlation to value, risk because of income. They were not a direct factor which caused the property owner to be considered high risk and be denied a loan. There were red zones which had no black people. It wasn’t black = redzone = loan denied. It was high risk = redzone = loan could be denied.

She said her property was in a yellow zone almost 100 years ago. (HOLC aka “redline” Map of Oakland 1936-39). Makes sense as it was closer to new then and there was no 580 freeway. She said appraiser cut off comp properties at the 580 freeway. 580 built 1960 after home was built. That makes total sense as that is the edge of Allendale. She wanted the appraiser to choose only certain higher comps in a circle around her. We shouldn’t always choose a perfect circle around the subject because neighborhoods aren’t laid out that way. She said appraiser only chose comps from specific areas. That’s what we’re supposed to do. She said appraiser chose comps based on 100 year old redlining map. I doubt the appraiser has even seen the redlining maps from 100 years ago. Research has also shown that redlining affected the white property owners mainly. Research has shown that redlining does not affect properties today in a negative manner. Those areas have actually appreciated the most through revitalization which some incorrectly call “gentrification.”

She states appraiser lives in the Bay Area. She also I assume Googled the appraiser after the appraisal. There is allegedly a photo of the appraiser in San Francisco in front of the Gadsden flag with a caption that states “Don’t tread on me! A warrior of light never accepts the unacceptable.” She states that’s racist. The phrase is the opposite of racist. The first part “don’t tread on me” is a message to the British not to trample on the rights of Americans. The second part is from “Excerpt from Warrior of the Light: A Manual by Paulo Coelho.” The phrase is against antisemitism and Hitler and other ills of the human race. The Gadsden flag flies in the Civic Center of San Francisco. “The Gadsden Flag is a historical American flag with a yellow field depicting a timber rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike, beneath which are the words “DON’T TREAD ON ME.” Its creator, Christopher Gadsden, designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution as a warning to Great Britain not to violate the liberties of its American subjects.” She is clearly racist. She sees racism in everything. I realize people who have been discriminated against in the past will assume everything they don’t like is racism but it’s not.

First appraisal December 8, 2021 at $785,000. Second was a month or so later at $1,125,000. This sounds exactly like the other Oakland case of alleged bias. It’s also directly related to an article I just wrote on why appraisal values can vary. That is a huge difference. It appears the second appraiser used properties in a more expensive neighborhood/area farther from the 580 freeway and subject which were in superior C2-C3 renovated condition. I believe the second appraiser was incompetent and trying to avoid a complaint. Higher value means happy borrower and no complaint even if the appraisal is riddled with mistakes and is bank fraud. It takes a good experienced ethical appraiser to come in at market value in these situations knowing there could be a nightmare frivolous meritless complaint like in this case.

Sadly we don’t have enough information to know if there was any discrimination in the valuation process beyond what I just stated. Based on the complaint there was no discriminatory behavior. I think the differences in values were due to the second appraiser selecting comps in a different area and not properly adjusting down for inferior subject condition. They may have done that because they knew they were the second appraiser and didn’t want a complaint or lawsuit. Maybe the owner told them about the first lower appraiser and said she’s filing a complaint. The second appraiser should have been reported to BREA and sued for bank fraud.

Based on my experience researching these cases discrimination is not the issue. The borrower just wanted a higher value. She probably got real estate agent, Zillow postcards in the mail saying “a “similar” home just sold for $1,500,000.” “Find out what your home is worth today!” She assumed her home in fair condition would be worth the same when it’s not. Agents do this to drum up business. If anyone has more information on this case, please, let me know.

Mary Cummins
Mary Cummins

Mary Cummins

Mary is a certified residential appraiser and has been in real estate since 1983. She is licensed by the California Office of Real Estate Appraisers. She was an agent and broker licensed with the California Department of Real Estate selling residential income, commercial buildings, raw land and homes for Merrill Lynch Realty in Beverly Hills and Westside Properties in Los Angeles before concentrating on appraisals.

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13 Responses

  1. I learned a long time ago not to get into in-depth conversations with buyers/sellers outside of basic info about the property (age, recent updates/renovation, etc.). I make notes on what has to be done, if anything, and condition my report for any repairs. By doing it this way, the lender has to notify all parties involved of what needs to be done. It avoids the “she said/she said” scenario. It’s in writing for everyone involved to read. I also state the rule/reg as stated by the parish and the VA book/page. I do only VA appraisals these days.

  2. Avatar chris says:

    I’m just curious why you said, “Those areas have actually appreciated the most through revitalization which some incorrectly call “gentrification.”?

  3. Avatar IMJSAYN says:

    Thanks Mary! When you mentioned the thing about security bars, my jaw dropped. It’s like every day, the script gets flipped in ways we never saw coming. I mean, honestly, when did trying to balance safety start crossing wires with being politically or socially insensitive? It’s a wild ride, trying to keep up with what’s considered okay and what’s not. Sometimes, it feels like you need a daily briefing just to navigate the world without accidentally stepping on landmines of controversies.

    • Avatar Pray Hard says:

      Some days it feels like we should just charge $10,000-$20,000 per typical house appraisal so we can hire an attorney to ride shotgun with us on every house inspection, record everything the seller, buyer, builder and agent says and force same to sign a release from liability or just just walk away from the assignment. If they do sign it, then the attorney can spend a month or two looking over our shoulder as we write the appraisal, then do a legal review of it before we transmit it to the client. Maybe they can also put it before a grand jury and a panel of state regulators and see if it meets muster before transmitting. IDK, what do you think?

      • Baggins Baggins says:

        Or we could go back to mortgage bankers and appraisers having direct communication and meaningful professional relationships, better two way accountability. They could ask for a comp search before ordering the appraisal, so the borrower would know ahead of time a reasonable value range of their property’s market value. Borrower could make special requests if they were uncomfortable with any specific character type of appraiser, and lender could order the comp search from an alternative appraiser instead.

        The separation from mortgage loan production rules is the root cause of the majority of the problems with valuation service, false complaints, dangerous technological advancements, inability of lenders to properly provide value estimates to their customers, consumers feeling harmed and wronged, a long list.

        Remember the days when one single appraisal order only required one mortgage broker, with one mortgage lending customer, filling out a single piece of paper, and faxing it to one single appraiser? The only corrective rule that was ever needed was the mortgage broker should not have been allowed to tell the appraiser what number was needed, thereby nullifying their ability to shop appraisers based on value expectations. Nearly every appraiser, the best appraisers out there whom consumers no longer have access to, would still be in service to American consumers and would routinely complete mortgage lending reports among their other services provided. There would be no assignment portals, no unnecessary middle management, no additional costs to consumers, better two way comprehensive communication, no more surprises, far fewer complaints, less drain on government regulatory resources, fewer lawyers involved, lower insurance costs, etc, etc, etc.

  4. Avatar Jeanie says:

    It’s absurd to label the appraiser as racist just because they were photographed in San Francisco with the Gadsden flag. How preposterous!

    It’s like being trapped in a never-ending circus of nonsensical accusations!

  5. Avatar Pray Hard says:

    I’ve run across the issue many times of loan boys doing the “ra ra cis boom ba” cheerleading dance after looking at Zillow and telling the borrower that their house is worth at least $whatever. Then I do an appraisal and everybody is “confused”. “Buh, buh, buh, Lenny the loan officer said it was worth this much”! I think this behavior is predatory lending and should cease and desist immediately. Personally, I think loan boys should simply and politely STFU when it comes to value hopes and dreams. This DEI stuff will destroy appraising. Maybe that’s their goal, huh? But, we’re still fighting on our heels having to prove that we weren’t the culprits in whatever. Appraisers simply can’t work and live that way for very long. We take on WAY too much responsibility for things that ARE NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY. After decades the language still isn’t even correct on lender coercion of appraisers. They still call it “appraiser pressure” as if we’re the ones who pressure ourselves. Until we’re fighting on our toes, we’re always going to be in this one down position.

    • Agreed. I’ve had borrowers tell me “the lender said it’ll easily appraise for xxx.” Lenders do that to suck in borrowers so the lender/agent can make money. Then they get the appraisal at market value and lender blames the appraiser for “coming in low.” They assume borrower is now invested with credit inquiry, time, fees, probably needs the deal and will just accept the actual loan and terms. It’s so frustrating. Lender only looks at AVM. If property is in less than condition, it won’t appraise at AVM. AVMs don’t know condition.

  6. Avatar Bill says:

    Yea, we have our government promoting a form of racism that doesn’t exist for the most part. It’s just the push to eliminate appraisers and a money grab by some dispicible individuals. Don’t get me wrong, sure there is no doubt a degree of racism in the appraisal profession and probably no different than lawyers, doctors, accountants and realtors. But this suite moves to the top of the rediculous list and quite obviously “how much will I get” in the settlement list.

    • Agreed. Lenders using alleged “bias” as rationalization for getting rid of human appraisers. Lenders can make more money without appraisers. They can make a lot of money in areas that are revitalizing if they use AVMs. AVMs don’t know condition. People with properties in less than condition could get bigger loans on their property because AVM will come in much higher.

  7. Baggins Baggins says:

    Great article. Security bars are acceptable, but only if at least one of them has an unlocking latch type mechanism, where it can be opened from the inside of the home. Lenders will reject appraisal reports and order the appraiser to make the report subject to either removal of the security bars or to re install the correct type for emergency fire egress safety with unlock latches.

    Yes, home remodeling of older properties may carry extensive costs. Lead paint, hazardous insulation, asbestos remediation, framing, wood, siding, walls, paneling, fixtures, doors, structural, windows, roof, concretes, drainage, electric, sewer, water lines, exterior features, fences. Extensive retrofitting and installation of utility service components. Then over time, needs replaced again. The older properties get, the higher the adjustable line item becomes when compared against properties with superior condition. Add up all the service cost estimates individually, and enter that into the appraisal report. There is your -$200k negative adjustment and proof.

    Cash out refinancing has a higher total financing cost because it’s such a long term loan. There are other loan instruments with less risk and shorter pay off terms. The better alternative for many people, especially people with limited financial resources, is to fix up the home incrementally over time with smaller loans. I do not understand peoples motivations to demand higher housing prices and subsequently pay higher taxes. What exactly is wrong with lower housing prices? Your two minutes of hate starts now.

  8. Avatar Howard Wettreich says:

    It definitely seems that this lawsuit was bogus. However, it would help every appraiser reading these notices to know exactly how the adjustments were made, explained and defended in order to reach their own conclusions. That’s the part of all reported lawsuits and settlements that’s always missing. I understand that the report(s) will never be released, and that remains an unfortunate missed opportunity for at least a learning experience.


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Security Bars Removal Law Debunks Alleged Racial Discrimination

by Mary Cummins time to read: 8 min