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Craigslist Sued For Violating Fair Housing Laws 429

Posted by Zonk
from the not-good-form dept.
The Good Reverend writes "The Associated Press has a report today about online classified site CraigsList being accused in a federal lawsuit of violating fair housing laws by publishing discriminatory classified ads. Current law, which applies to newspapers, prohibits ads that discriminate on the basis of race, gender, family status, religion, all of which can be found on Craigslist."
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Craigslist Sued For Violating Fair Housing Laws

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  • by MorderVonAllem (931645) on Friday February 10, 2006 @11:39PM (#14692430)
    ...are not the property of craigslist, it has far too many listings per day to constantly check each and every post to make sure it follows all applicable laws for each state it is accessible in. It's essentially a clearing house and as such it is protected against such lawsuits anyway.
    • by biocute (936687) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:19AM (#14692599) Homepage
      True. Slashdot also has a fine print: "The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way."

      Oh by the way, I have an apartment for rent, only one requirement: Clean Godly Christian Male.
      • by mattjb0010 (724744) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:38AM (#14692686) Homepage
        Oh by the way, I have an apartment for rent, only one requirement: Clean Godly Christian Male.

        I have just the tenant for you [datejesus.com]...
        • Mod parent up! That is really funny.

          However, with that sad, the site is pretty sad. That is all I have to say. That guy has a one way ticket to hell. He is out there pan handeling saying he is homeless, and at the same time advertising bubble baths, and has a website trying to get woman?
    • It's essentially a clearing house and as such it is protected against such lawsuits anyway.

      Citation?

      I believe you are thinking of the safe harbor part of the DMCA [chillingeffects.org], a part of the DMCA which could use some tweaking perhaps but is fundamentally sound. But that only protects [cornell.edu]:

      A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider's transmitting, routing, or providing co

      • by tmittz (260795) <shivand@NOSPam.rocketmail.com> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:53AM (#14692760)
        Not sure if he's specifically thinking of this act, but the Communications Decency Act [wikipedia.org] will almost certainly protect them. The Ninth Circuit already came down in a very similar case (Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommate.Com, LLC., 33 Media L. Rep. 1636 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 2005)) that the online ads were protected. While this certainly isn't binding on the present case, it is persuasive, and there are various other rulings that suggest the CDA is a very broad and powerful statute.
    • The Actual postings are not the property of craigslist, it has far too many listings per day to constantly check each and every post to make sure it follows all applicable laws for each state it is accessible in.
      That's very nice - but the laws in question are Federal laws and not state laws.
      • by rs79 (71822)
        (IANAL)

        If a newspaper prints discriminatory ads they're liable as they e3xercise editorial control. Thet know what they're printing and (in theory) know what they're allowed to print. They're a publisher.

        If I pin up an ad for a house to rent in a super market and then when somebody enquires via the telephone and I say I only want 19 yr old blond nymphomaniacs as tennants, can you sue the phone company? No. Why? As a common carrier Bell cannot control what is being said.

        CL is a common carrier, not a publishe
        • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @03:26AM (#14693190) Homepage
          (IANAL)
          And it shows.
          If a newspaper prints discriminatory ads they're liable as they e3xercise editorial control. Thet know what they're printing and (in theory) know what they're allowed to print. They're a publisher.
          True. They are also a publisher because they make information available to the public. (That's the argument bloggers are making in their efforts to be recognized as 'real journalists'.)
          If I pin up an ad for a house to rent in a super market and then when somebody enquires via the telephone and I say I only want 19 yr old blond nymphomaniacs as tennants, can you sue the phone company? No. Why? As a common carrier Bell cannot control what is being said.
          True. But note an important distinction, Bell facilitates communications, it does not publish. It's equally free of liability no matter who posts the ad where. You'll also note that many supermarkets do act as a sort of publisher, as they not only make the information (ad) available, they exercise a measure of editorial control. Every one with which I am familiar routinely polices it's public notice board and removes offensive or overage ads.
          CL is a common carrier, not a publisher your honour. Move to dismiss.
          CL provides editorial control - it sorts and categorizes the advertisements. It publishes in that it amalgamates ads and makes them public (which Bell does not). It actively edits the content of the site. CL is not a common carrier. (That's how BBS systems remained common carriers, there was no editing or moderation of posts, while Prodigy was ruled to not be a common carrier - they did provide mechanisms for editing and moderation.)
          • by rs79 (71822)
            "CL provides editorial control - it sorts and categorizes the advertisements. It publishes in that it amalgamates ads and makes them public (which Bell does not). It actively edits the content of the site. CL is not a common carrier. (That's how BBS systems remained common carriers, there was no editing or moderation of posts, while Prodigy was ruled to not be a common carrier - they did provide mechanisms for editing and moderation.)"

            Prodidy was deemed not to be a common carrier - fair enough, private carr
  • For real? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iamlucky13 (795185) on Friday February 10, 2006 @11:43PM (#14692439)
    Wait a sec, doesn't craigslist have one of these?
    The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
    And surely there must be some similar cases that have been brought up (and dismissed, I hope) before.
    • IANAL.. blah, blah, blah..

      In general, if a service makes no attempt to censor its contents, it can be considered a distributor and is not responsible for its content; thus, that is why internet news groups do not get ISPs in trouble. If Craig's list makes any attempt to regulate the content (removes postings, states criteria, etc), it is a publisher and is subject to being liable for its content. As for where they stand? That's going to be up to the court.
    • Re:For real? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zeinfeld (263942) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:09AM (#14692565) Homepage
      The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.

      And like the sign in the garage that says 'we are not responsible for anything' it has no effect. The point of those disclaimers is that they discourage the ignorant from filing suit, not that they have legal effect. If you can proved that you suffered a loss as a result of negligence on the part of the garage then you can sue, the right to sue for negligence cannot be surrendered under contract law.

      I don't think that the arguments being advanced by the Internet legal experts are the right ones for craigslist to use. They are the ones that those lawyers would like craigslist to use but that does not make them the ones most likely to win this particular case.

      There is plenty of case law that has upheld the constitutionality of anti-discrimination laws such as the fair housing act. Congress did not intend to give online companies a pass on those acts and intentionally facilitate discrimination.

      If craigslist did win that way it would be a shortlived victory. Congress would clarify its intentions soon enough.

      The best defense for craigslist is to do what they are doing and saying that they have taken every reasonable precaution to ensure that discriminatory ads are not published and that these precautions are effective.

      Saying 'not our problem' is the worst thing they could do. Courts do not like people telling them that the law does not apply to them.

      • by porkchop_d_clown (39923) <mwheinz@nosPaM.me.com> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:21AM (#14692606) Homepage
        There is plenty of case law that has upheld the constitutionality of anti-discrimination laws such as the fair housing act. Congress did not intend to give online companies a pass on those acts and intentionally facilitate discrimination.

        There's also plenty of case law [businessweek.com] saying that online services are not responsible for the content of messages published. There is no evidence that Craigslist itself was discriminating against anyone - particularly since they have procedures for removing any ads which trigger complaints.

      • Re:For real? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Quadraginta (902985)
        Courts do not like people telling them that the law does not apply to them.

        I'm not sure this is true. I think the question of whether a given Court has jurisdiction, and whether a given law applies to a given situation, are both arguments that lawyers routinely make before a Court. I don't think Courts think these arguments are tantamount to saying the law doesn't apply to someone. They're just saying a particular law doesn't apply, or a particular Court doesn't have jurisdiction.

        Indeed, I think question
  • Well duh... (Score:4, Informative)

    by wbren (682133) on Friday February 10, 2006 @11:43PM (#14692440) Homepage
    Well duh, it's Craigslist. I can also find prostitutes [craigslist.com], free porn [craigslist.org] and Madeline dolls [craigslist.org].
  • That explains it... (Score:5, Informative)

    by wilburdg (178573) on Friday February 10, 2006 @11:44PM (#14692446)
    I was wondering why craigslist added the following text to all their housing related pages:

    Fair Housing Is Everyone's Right

    Stating a discriminatory preference in a housing post is illegal

    When making any posting on craigslist, you must comply with section 3604(c) of the Federal Fair Housing Act.
    • by Phanatic1a (413374) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:14AM (#14692582)
      Craigslist will be fine. Roommates.com was sued for the exact same behavior, supposedly violating the exact same statute, and they won an easy victory [ericgoldman.org].
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Of course that statute is in direct violation of the constitution and the right of free association guaranteed in the bill of rights. If I'm a Christian, and I have a room to let, I have EVERY right to deny satanists or blacks or women or three-headed pink wobbleboynkers from Neptune if I so desire. Nobody has an inherent right to be able to live on my property.
    • by r00t (33219) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @02:02AM (#14692982) Journal
      Why should I have to waste my time visiting a place if the landlord will pick someone else anyway?

      What if it was something invisible, like religeon or sexual behavior? I might actually sign a lease with a landlord who will hate me as soon as he discovers that I'm not the sort of person he expected!

      Think of all the ways a landlord can screw you over. Now imagine he totally hates you. Wouldn't you rather have had some warning? Wouldn't you rather have rented somewhere else?

      Making discrimination illegal doesn't make it go away. It's still there, without any warning signs.
      • Making discrimination illegal doesn't make it go away. It's still there, without any warning signs.

        It should be perfectly legal to murder, rape and rob, because passing laws isn't going to make those things disappear. In fact, people will always be prejudiced, so let's legalize full-scale racial discrimination in housing, hiring, and education. People are always going to do evil things... so why should we bother stopping them?

        It may still be there. But making it illegal means that people have to take car
        • It should be perfectly legal to murder, rape and rob, because passing laws isn't going to make those things disappear.

          Like hyperbole much?


          People are always going to do evil things... so why should we bother stopping them?

          Except, stopping advertisements expressing such prejudice doesn't stop the prejudice itself. It just prevents people looking for a place to live/work from having any sort of warning that they will waste their time by applying.


          maybe you should ask yourself whether a free and jus
        • The trouble with restricting discrimination by controlling speech is that Congress doesn't have the authority to abridge the freedom of speech. If you really want to shut people up, propose and pass a constitutionall amendment. "Oh, that's too hard", you say? Well then tough luck -- live WITHIN the constitution -- ALL of it.
          -russ
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2006 @11:45PM (#14692453)
    End of story. [techlawjournal.com]

    (although we're in the 7th Circuit, and the issue is therefore a little more subtle, you can bet your sweet bippy the above will be dispositive)

    • But, it is the start of the story. If the CDA was the end, then you would not have had CARAFANO v. MetroSplash 339 F.3d 1119. Which held that a matchmaking service was protected. This cited Gentry v. eBay, Inc., 99 Cal. App. 4th 816, 121 Cal.Rptr.2d 703 (Cal. Ct. App. 2002) which said that the Ebay's customer ratings were protected under the CDA.

  • by pin_gween (870994) on Friday February 10, 2006 @11:46PM (#14692457)
    are they illegal? the ones like "23 yr old female seeks female to share rent, utilities"
    I mean, I'd love to offer my services despite that damning gender clause
    • Re:Roommate listings (Score:4, Interesting)

      by linguae (763922) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:23AM (#14692618)

      Hmmm, read Section 804 of the Fair Housing Act [usdoj.gov], then come back with your findings. Here is one interesting section:

      [It shall be unlawful] to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination.

      So, does that mean that all of the "looking for a nice Christan male" advertisements are illegal because they are discriminating against non-Chritstans and females? I see those advertisements all the time.

      Disclaimer/Warning: I am a black poster, who is also libertarian. Be prepared for libertarianism and discrimination issues.

      Hmmm, shouldn't the owner of the property have a say in what roommates they should pick? After all, no anti-discrimination law will stop racism, sexism, anti-homosexuality, ageism, xenophobia, and other social ills. It does no good to live in the same space as a bigot, or to accept services and goods from people who wouldn't serve me (what's better, a sign at a restaurant telling me that I'm not allowed, or shoddy service because of my background; they have to let me in, but they can give me terrible service and remain within the law as long as they don't utter a slur. And if I notice that, then I'm accused of "thoughtcrime" and paranoia.).

      Don't get me wrong. I am a vehemoth opponent of Jim Crow laws (that is when a city or state uses government power to restrict freedoms of certain people), and I do not support the types of discrimination enumerated in the various anti-discrimination laws. However, I am a supporter of private property rights, too. I believe that homeowners should be free to decide which types of roomates that they want.

      I wonder what other minority libertarians and minority people of other similar beliefs (such as classical liberals, small-government conservatives of the Goldwater mold, and anarchocapitalists) have to say?

      • wait stop the presses, you mean you wouldn't want to know ahead of time the person you may live with is a bigot!

        i never understand the limited forsight of elected politicians. the only thing we need protection from is government discrimination, because you can't do anything about that.
      • Don't get me wrong. I am a vehemoth opponent of Jim Crow laws (that is when a city or state uses government power to restrict freedoms of certain people), and I do not support the types of discrimination enumerated in the various anti-discrimination laws.

        I don't see any inconsistancy in your view point. You don't like Jim Crow. You also don't like "Crow Jim".

        Also, "Nice Christian Male" discriminates against "Mean Christian Male".
    • are they illegal? the ones like "23 yr old female seeks female to share rent, utilities" I mean, I'd love to offer my services despite that damning gender clause

      Yes and if you sued and won I think you'd have a better chance of getting laid at a lesbian biker convention. Sueing over gender discrimination isn't likely to endear you to your would be room mate.

  • by core plexus (599119) on Friday February 10, 2006 @11:48PM (#14692465) Homepage
    While I am against discrimination, I believe there are far too many lawyers looking for fame and fortune.

    This case is a non-starter, and the Judge should sanction the plaintiffs, IMO.

    • While I am against discrimination, I believe there are far too many lawyers looking for fame and fortune.

      Welcome to the world of the Trail Lawyer's Bar. Just vote against anyone that lends them their support and our country will be a better place.

    • Ummm, if you read the article it says that the lawsuit was filed by "Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc." which is affiliated with "National Fair Housing Alliance" not some plaintiff lawyer.

      If you go to their site, it says it is a "public interest law consortium of Chicago's leading law firms" and it tries to "preserve affordable housing, advocates for the rights and interests of poor children"

      And if you go to National Fair Housing site it says it "is the only national organization d
      • Actually, quite a few poverty lawyers make quite a bit of money on civil rights laws as the statutes award attorney's fees which is usually quite a bit more than actual damages. Not that their motives aren't noble, but it's not exactly a non profit organization.
    • While I am against discrimination, I believe there are far too many lawyers looking for fame and fortune.

      That may be true. But lawyers don't initiate suits - plaintiffs do. It's irrelevant that in this case the plaintiffs are lawyers. (And this is hardly a case that will garner either fame, or fortune.

      This case is a non-starter, and the Judge should sanction the plaintiffs, IMO.

      In other words, you aren't actually against discrimination - or your beliefs are plastic enough to allow you to be *for* dis

  • If it was free service as in Slashdot posting free, sure, it shouldn't matter what crackpot ads are on Craigslist. BUT that's not the case. Craigslist DOES take money for posting ads by collecting fee from ad posters.

    Hence Craigslist is directly responsible for allowing discriminatory ads.

    Get the facts.
    • by log0n (18224) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:13AM (#14692578)
      I think you're confused. Or you've never used Craigslist.

      It doesn't cost anything to post an ad on Craigslist. And there's no traditional internet advertising (ie google adsense, yahoo ads, etc) from which to generate revenue.

      I'm not sure how Craig makes money, but I'm pretty sure it's not from advertising.
      • I thought I read (a few days ago) that they were going to start charging for housing ads.
        • They did just announce plans to charge in the near future. How much do you want to bet that this very lawsuit was the catalyst for that decision? Probably figured they're going to have to pay people to read and vet all the housing ads from now on.

          Sigh. Lawyers and idiots ruin something else for everyone so they can get a few bucks..
    • I corrected your post:

      If it was free service as in Slashdot posting free, sure, it shouldn't matter what crackpot ads are on Craigslist. SO that's not the case. Craigslist DOES NOT take money for posting HOUSING ads by collecting fee from HOUSING ad posters.

      Hence Craigslist is NOT responsible for allowing discriminatory ads.

      Get the facts.

    • Several content providers (most often, but not exclusively, AOL) have been sued for content posted to their system. However, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act [wikipedia.org] protects content distributors from being held liable for the content of postings made by users. It makes no mention of money; indeed, AOL charges its subscribers for access and has won numerous court cases on the basis of section 230.

      I feel so dirty... I just defended AOL and the CDA in a single post. Oh well... :)
  • Desperate Lawyers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by putko (753330) on Friday February 10, 2006 @11:55PM (#14692500) Homepage Journal
    It is a case of some desperate, moneygrubbing lawyers - trying to make something off of Craig.

    One option people are not talking about would be to get rid of the fair housing act, which would allow property owners the freedom to do with their property as they wish.

    One problem with the current regime is that the federal housing authority usually only goes after white people discriminating against non-whites. That's stupid because these days, in places like New York or LA, most of the discrimination is taking place between different non-white groups. E.g. hispanics only renting to hispanics (and not blacks).
    • ... to mod this one up! (posted before in this thread, you know...).

      Paul B.

    • The common misconception is that a persons skin color, religion, or ethnic background make people more or less compatible. The more useful criteria are things like interests, hobbies, music, movies, etc. Sex could be considered an exception since a bathroom may be shared and it's ok to discriminate with public restrooms.
    • Re:Desperate Lawyers (Score:3, Informative)

      by nomadic (141991)
      It is a case of some desperate, moneygrubbing lawyers - trying to make something off of Craig.

      Next time read the article before making wild attacks. It's a bunch of pro bono lawyers, so they're not getting paid, and the article doesn't mention anything about seeking economic damages; they simply want them to initiate certain measures to prevent the discriminatory ads. I think they're wrong, and they're going to lose, but I can disagree with them without resorting to the tired old ignorant "blah blah l
  • Here are the lawyers that are suing Craig: http://www.clccrul.org/list.htm [clccrul.org]
  • Bullshit. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:02AM (#14692538)
    There is nothing wrong withd discriminating when choosing a roommate. Some people naturally feel more comfortable living with the same sex. Some people are more comfortable living with people their own age.

    They listed:

    race, gender, family status, religion

    Race - although there is no good reason to discriminate based on this, some cultures have attitudes that create conflicts.

    Gender - some people (maybe most) are more comfortable being roommates with the same sex.

    Family Status - If I'm a college student, I don't want to be living with a single mother with a baby. That's not the housing situation you want to be in. People live very different lives and some people in some situations just don't fit together.

    Religion - If I'm a christian, I probably don't want a large atheist symbol decorated around the house.

    You see, in situations where it doesn't matter, discrimination is bad. In the case of living situations where roommates must get along, it's a necessity.

    You can't stop the discrimination anyway. Everyone has their preferences. Whether they screen in their post or after someone calls, people will still get screened, so the attempt is largely ineffective anyway.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ...there are atheist symbols?
    • Re:Bullshit. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rgoldste (213339)
      The "you can't stop discrimination anyway" attitude, had it been made policy, would probably have blocked the tremendous progress the U.S. has made in race relations and civil rights.

      Under your logic, the Supreme Court should never have ruled school segregation was unconstitutional because they predicted white-flight from urban schools. Imagine telling Chief Justice Warren, "Don't bother upholding the constitution because whatever you do, the white folks will still have their white-only (or white-dominated)
    • Re:Bullshit. (Score:3, Informative)

      by ces (119879) *
      A number of people here seem to be confused as to how the Fair Housing Act applies to shared housing situations as opposed to rental or sale of entire units.

      If you are advertising for a shared housing situation you are allowed to state your gender, religion, age, race, etc. Similarly you are allowed to state preferences that otherwise would not be allowed in housing ads.

      Our local paper won't even allow ads that state an apartment or house for rent or sale is near a church (i.e. "Near St.Mark's"), however th
  • by sdnoob (917382)
    craigslist is not a newspaper. if the law is that specific, then however flawed it may be today, it still does not apply.

    also, from the article:

    EBay Inc. owns 25 percent of Craigslist.

    perhaps someone is just smelling easy money?

    The site last month added a yellow link on each housing ad warning that "Stating a discriminatory preference in a housing post is illegal." When clicked, users get information about the Fair Housing Act and guidance on how to write ads that comply.

    that, along with a disclaimer statin

    • this could come back to bite blogs right in the ass, because blogs are looking for credibility as news publishers. many contain summaries and links of other blogs


      Well, assuming the 1996 law truly does cover online service providers, why would it cover blog authors? A blog clearly IS a publication, and obviously that's it's intent. Why would you think a blog author is an online service provider?
  • by freddie (2935) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:04AM (#14692546)
    A lot of people on craigslist are looking for roommates. That is something more than just renting some random piece of property to a random person. Most people looking for roommates may have in mind somebody of an age-range, ethnicity, religion, or sex that is compatible with them. People ought to be able to select roommates on whatever criteria they feel is appropiate.

    Suppose people feel intimidated and stop posting their preferences in the ads. They're still going to have their preference though they might not tell you. For example, suppose you are a girl, and the person is looking for a male roommate. Then you'll end up showing to see a property that the owner is not really prepared to rent out to you, wasting your time and wasting their time. I don't think anybody really wants that.
    • by damsa (840364) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:51AM (#14692748)
      Roommates fall outside of Fair Housing laws. You can discriminate all you want. You have the first amendment freedom of association clause to thank for that. The FHA applies to people renting apartments, houses and the like.
  • Is it applying to just official landlords who have apartments, all the paperwork, yackety yack...

    or...

    Is it applying to homeowners that has a spare room for rent? Ie someone that can't get ratted out if the a/c breaks and the owner doesn't fix it?

  • This /. article has been removed by the craiglist community.
  • by cr@ckwhore (165454) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:14AM (#14692585) Homepage
    Amendment I - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Sounds pretty clear to me.

    • And don't forget an overlooked, but very important amendment - the 10th Amendment:

      The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

      This is also known as federalism, or "state rights." Anything not covered under the Constitution is left to the states, cities, and people to decide. Ideally, that is the way the country was (and should be) structures, a small federal government handling certain

    • Obligatory "fire in the theatre post. If I put an ad out which said, "Apartment for Rent: Blacks Need Not Apply", that's a problem. It's my house, sure, and I may really hate blackes (which is not illegal since it would be a thought crime). But I cannot exclude blacks. Nor can I post an ad saying that.
    • You are indeed free to say and print whatever you want. That does not mean that you can say whatever you want and escape the consequences of those actions.
      • You are indeed free to say and print whatever you want. That does not mean that you can say whatever you want and escape the consequences of those actions.

        You can publish a pamphlet saying that Britain's taxes are unfair and therefore the colonies should break away and form their own independent government, but that doesn't mean you can't be arrested for doing so.

        Uh.. wait... what was the motive for having the First Amendment? Oh, now I remember: escaping consequences.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:22AM (#14692612)
    This may sound like a strange thing to say but as a lifelong tenant who's looked for dozens of apartments in a few different cities, I actually wish landlords were allowed to spell out their preferences (and prejudices.)

    Fair housing laws are pretty much all lip service, IMO. It's not like employment laws where you can judge by qualifications-- there is no real way to measure who would make a good tenant. And landlords almost always have a certain type of person in mind-- maybe a newlywed couple, maybe a certain income or professional range, maybe straight (or gay) only, maybe Asian, Hispanic, White or Black. They'll take all applicants and go through all the motions because they have to, but in the end the lucky tenant is always the one who comes closest to the preconceived notion.

    I'm not really saying we should go back to the days of "blacks need not apply"... But it would certainly save me as a prospective tenant a lot of time and hassle if landlords were free to let me know in advance I'm not what they're looking for.

  • Screw that, hold the landlord posting these tenant requirements responsible, as they're the ones breaking the law advertising that crap in the first place! If it's within the United States' borders, then these people should be following the laws of the United States when posting stuff to the internet, especially when it's dealing with real estate, and just happens to be business in the United States, which is bound by US Law, as is any other business regarding equal opportunity.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You are wrong. Citizens have a responsibility to disobey corrupt laws. If we can learn anything from the late Dr. Martin Luther King, it is that. Civil disobedience against onerous "laws" is our duty as free men and women. Uncle Sam needs to stay out of our bedrooms in every way. Government interference with individual choices is intrusive, onerous, and beyond the pale. Just because some corrupt officials can push through a "law" does not make it "a right".
  • by Void Incarnate (944745) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:38AM (#14692687)
    Whatever happened to people being able to freely associate, or not, with whomever they want? If someone has a place to rent and they only want to rent to a particular group, or exclude a group, who is anyone else to tell them what they can do with their property?
    • by damsa (840364)
      You can freely associate, if you live in the property. You can discrimnate all you want. It's when you are using the home for income, then there is a problem. The act of excluding certain people from housing has a detrimental effect on commerce. If a motel refuses to rent to Canadians, then the city would lose money from Canadian tourists or there is a danger that Canadians would be forced to sleep out on the streets. So when you do business that is open to the public, you agree to certain rules, including
    • I think you have an excellent point. I would call this a frivolous lawsuit for those looking for roomates.

      It is one thing to restrict non-roomate renters or buyers based on the race, sex, etc, I think that is clearly wrong. I do consider it a free association issue, it shouldn't be turned to compusion in order to save on rent. I wonder how this would be seen if someone was objecting to a gay man wanting a gay roomie rather than straight.
    • Disclaimer/Warning: I am a black poster, who is also libertarian. Be prepared for libertarianism and discrimination issues.

      Well, during the Civil Rights Movement, the original focus of the movement was to topple the Jim Crow laws, which stifled the freedoms of African-Americans (and other minority groups). Segregation was enforced throughout many businesses and government services, especially in Southern states; in fact, it was against the law for a business to not practice segregation. Affected people

  • On a related note... (Score:5, Informative)

    by trims (10010) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @12:45AM (#14692720) Homepage

    I'm not sure how the ruling will classify (no pun intended) the ads on Craigslist - though I suspect that since there is no fee involved, Craigslist will have Common Carrier or equivalent status - I'm all for holding on-line sites to the same standard as print newspapers, so long as it TRULY the same standard.

    That said, the relevant sections of the Fair Housing Act do NOT apply to ads for roommates or those looking to share a place they do not own. The law involves the Owner (or the duly-empowered representative) and any prospective lessee. I'm a little fuzzy on sub-leasing, but since most of that is a huge gray market anyway (most rental contracts forbid subleasing, but it's commonly ignored), I suspect that it isn't covered in the F.H.A. Note that if you own the place, renting out the spare room does make you the landlord, and you have to abide by the F.H.A. But if you're a renter, and just looking for a roommate, well, the F.H.A. doesn't apply, and you can specify that only Left Handed, Purple Skined Demon Sycophants can apply to be your roommate.

    Most likely, the suit will get a summary judgement and be punted. But it at least should make those services which DO charge think about complying with the F.H.A. Which is only, well, fair.

    -Erik

  • Sue happy america? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 1053r (903458)
    Laywers make me sick. From TFA:

    "Among the housing ads cited as objectionable by the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Inc. were ones that read "NO MINORITIES," "Requirements: Clean Godly Christian Male," and "Only Muslims apply.""

    It seems reasonable to me to want roomates of the same religion. I wouldn't want to share a room with an 8 year old, a muslim wouldn't want to share a room with a catholic. I found on the craigslist website http://www.craigslist.org/about/fair.housing.html [craigslist.org]:

  • Hmmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jesus IS the Devil (317662) on Saturday February 11, 2006 @01:46AM (#14692940)
    This brings to light an interesting observation. When I was visiting China, I noticed there were few laws and even less enforcement. As a result, a true free market exists, where open discrimination seemed ok. Employees were discriminated on looks, age, height, etc. Customers can pay more to not have to wait in line at certain restaurants, etc.

    In the U.S. thought, you have a myriad of laws and regulations that restrict what people can do, where, etc. The idea is to have fair trade, not free trade.

    Seems backwards doesn't it? A communist country has less regulations, while a democratic country that prides itself on capitalism isn't really true capitalism.
  • by SenatorTreason (640653) <senatortreason@g ... .com minus punct> on Saturday February 11, 2006 @01:53AM (#14692955)
    For a real lawyer's opinion on this matter, go here [volokh.com].
  • So tired of hearing about new lawsuits every day. Every day. But I guess this is the inevitability of having so many lawyers.

Prediction is very difficult, especially of the future. - Niels Bohr

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