Housing Discrimination Rampant on Internet

Aug 11, 2009, 13:30 ET from National Fair Housing Alliance

National Fair Housing Alliance Report Urges Congress to Stop Online Discrimination

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a report released today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) documents how thousands of illegal housing advertisements appear with impunity on the Internet every day. "FOR RENT: NO KIDS! How Internet Advertisements Perpetuate Discrimination" calls upon Congress to stop the flood of discriminatory housing advertisements on the Internet by amending the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

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Fair housing centers and the government saw a 30-percent increase in complaints of discrimination against families with children in 2008. NFHA and 27 private fair housing organizations around the country identified more than 7,500 discriminatory advertisements in every state and Washington, DC and filed 1,000 discriminatory advertising complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the past year alone. It is illegal to discriminate against families with children in housing.

Although newspapers have been held liable under the Fair Housing Act for publishing discriminatory housing advertisements with statements such as "no kids," or "couples only," the publishers of similar ads on the Internet have not. A loophole in the Communications Decency Act of 1996 has allowed Internet advertising providers to escape liability under the Fair Housing Act by holding them to a different standard than print media.

Examples of Internet housing advertisements discriminating against families with children and with other illegal preferences include:

  • 2BR: "Mature couple or single with no children" Brooklyn, NY
  • 3BR: Duplex: "Christian atmosphere" Evansville, IN
  • 2BR: "PERFECT FOR 2 ADULTS. . .seeking a maximum of 2 tenants" New Haven, CT
  • 2BR: "Couples preferred" Chicago, IL

"At a time when 2 million children and their families have lost their homes to foreclosure and are desperately searching for a place to call home, these discriminatory advertisements slam the door in their face--denying them even the opportunity to apply for the apartment or home," said NFHA's President and CEO Shanna L. Smith.

Rather than holding publishers accountable, thereby addressing discrimination systematically as intended by law, this legal loophole has forced fair housing organizations to spend precious resources by challenging this enormous problem on an ad-by-ad basis. Neither the federal government nor individual organizations have the staff or resources to continue prosecuting each individual landlord.

"We must amend the Communications Decency Act so that Internet publishers are held to the same standard as newspapers under the Fair Housing Act," Ms. Smith said. "It is disgraceful that interactive Internet providers continue to receive a free pass to discriminate. Every time a discriminatory housing advertisement appears online, it tells the reader that it is okay to refuse to rent to a family with a child and it turns back the progress of the Fair Housing Act. An amendment to the Communications Decency Act will rectify this injustice."

Today's report follows a lawsuit NFHA filed last month against American Classifieds, LLC, the nation's largest classified advertisement publisher, for publishing housing ads in 17 states saying that children are not allowed.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. It covers all housing transactions and services, including advertising, rentals, sales, lending, and insurance, as well as harassment.

To read the full report, go to www.nationalfairhousing.org.

About the National Fair Housing Alliance (www.nationalfairhousing.org)

Founded in 1988, the National Fair Housing Alliance is a consortium of more than 220 private, non-profit fair housing organizations, state and local civil rights agencies, and individuals from throughout the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the National Fair Housing Alliance, through comprehensive education, advocacy and enforcement programs, provides equal access to apartments, houses, mortgage loans and insurance policies for all residents of the nation.

SOURCE National Fair Housing Alliance