Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray charged a Washington D.C. area home appraisal company with improperly influencing Ohio appraisals in what his office calls “an ongoing effort to hold the mortgage industry accountable for its part in the foreclosure crisis.”
The latest lawsuit filed Friday charges Weststar Mortgage, Inc. of Woodbridge, Virginia with violating Ohio by using pre-printed “estimated value” forms for appraisals and for “appraisal shopping” to get a higher appraisal amount on behalf of home sellers.
Three other appraisal companies accused of attempting to influence Ohio home appraisals have recently settled lawsuits with the state, resulting in a combined total of more than $150,000 in restitution and civil penalties.
In late November, Cordray settled with First Ohio Banc and Lending, headquartered in Independence, Ohio, resolving a lawsuit alleging the company engaged in unfair and deceptive home appraisal practices including deceptive advertising violations. In the agreed entry, First Ohio admitted that aspects of its advertising were deceptive and agreed to pay the state $52,400, which includes restitution to consumers.
In another agreement filed on October 7, in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Fiserv Lending Solutions, based in Connecticut, agreed to pay $95,000 to the state, which is the largest undue influence settlement in Ohio to date.
On September 22, Cordray entered into a similar agreement with Nation’s Lending, based in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. In the settlement filed in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Nations Lending agreed to pay the state $15,000 and will keep all appraisal records for three years. Those records are subject to review by the Attorney General.
“Appraisal influence is a damaging practice that often goes undetected until it’s too late,” said Cordray. “With this case, we advance one more step in cleaning up the destructive actions that led to the foreclosure crisis.”