Making AMCs Pay Up

To most appraisers this story is familiar: “I have been working with an AMC who shall remain nameless,” says Vrej Avedissian. “Having accepted a few assignments from them and dealing with their constant emails and phone calls regarding the status of each report, which borders on harassment, when it comes time to pay, it is a very different story. My contract with them states 30 days net but it has taken me in excess of 60 days to receive payments for my work. Is there a governing body or watchdog where an appraiser like me can file a complaint regarding late payment or non-payment?”

In certain states, a civil action may be all that someone in a scenario like Avedissian can pursue, unless the delay in payment can be tied to coercion under a state’s appraisal independence law or in states where appraiser management company (AMC) regulation demands prompt payment for appraisers. In states where AMC regulation has been enacted and where “prompt payment” language made it into the final bill, appraisers do have recourse. As of this writing the states with “prompt pay” provisions in their AMC law include: AZ, CT, MD, MO, MT, NM, OK, OR, TN, MS.

Montana is one of these states, according to appraiser Darwin Ernst, a member of Appraisal Institute and Montana’s State Appraiser Board. “The guaranty of payment provision is section 17 of the Montana AMC regulatory statute, which was signed by the governor on April 22, 2011,” says Ernst. “Section 16(a) has related information regarding withholding or threatening to withhold timely payment. A violation of either statute allows appraisers to file a complaint with the Montana Board of Real Estate Appraisers. Non-compliance may also be discovered through the audit provisions within Section 14.” According to Ernst, if found guilty, an AMC could lose the right to do business in Montana. “The AMC interests wanted language that would allow them to withhold payment if there was a dispute over a quality issue,” says Ernst. “But we said, pay the appraiser first and if there is a problem with the appraisal, report it to the Board for review.”

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