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PHILADELPHIA-Fidelity National Information Systems, a real estate services company, and its subsidiary, Market Intelligence Inc. filed a federal lawsuit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the seven-member State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers. Milford, MA-based FNIS charges the board with improperly forcing residential home borrowers to use slow and costly appraisals, instead of alternatives that it says are “federally approved,” in applying for loans in this state.

FNIS says in a statement, “by requiring the use of appraisals in all lending transactions, the Pennsylvania Appraisal Board is defying federal banking laws and attempting to halt federally approved banking practices that benefit consumers in the state.”

In court papers, FNIS asserts it can provide evaluations of residential real estate through automated models “within seconds” without the services of a board-certified appraiser, in contrast to “from five to 10 business days or more” when it uses such an appraiser.

Also, it states that in 2001, its charges from evaluations without a certified appraiser ranged from $25 to $100, in contrast to between $210 and $325 when using a board-certified appraiser.

For 2001, the court filing states, “FNIS charged a total of approximately $420,000 for evaluations of Pennsylvania real estate.” The corresponding charge would have been approximately $5.46 million, “if all of the evaluations had been full appraisals.”

FNIS claims that federal banking regulators exempt transactions valued below $250,000 from any appraisal requirement.

FNIS filed a similar lawsuit in Oregon in 2000 and prevailed. In a statement, Mark P. Sennott, FNIS executive vice president, called the current suit, “déjà vu all over again.”

The Philadelphia-based law firm of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll is representing FNIS and Market Intelligence.

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