Owner’s online ad allegedly discriminated against men and families with children
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged Cesar A. Lopez, a Chicago landlord with housing discrimination for posting an on-line ad that discriminates against men and families with children. The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing provider to make, print or publish, in print or on-line, any statement or advertisement that states a preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability.
The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under law, Inc., (CLC) regularly monitors the content of rental ads on craigslist.org. In January 2006, Justin Massa, a fair housing testing and outreach coordinator at CLC, viewed an on-line posting advertising an owner-occupied three-story dwelling. In his ad, Lopez said his unit was a “Great apartment for a single person,” and “I prefer young college students or single females.”
Later, Lopez admitted to Massa that he did not see a problem with the ad he posted, and commented that he was just “being honest” because “girls really are cleaner.”“Because of Mr. Lopez’s discriminatory language, people with children, and men were discouraged from seeking a rental opportunity,” said Kim Kendrick, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO). “When placing an ad on the Internet or in a newspaper, landlords and owners must follow the guidelines of the Fair Housing Act, and understand that advertising rules are the same whether you advertise on-line or in newspapers.”
A hearing on the charge will be held by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge on May 20, 2008, in Chicago, unless any party elects to have the case heard in U.S. District Court. An election to go to district court must be made by March 17, 2008.
Housing discrimination charges heard before an administrative law judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $16,000 for a first offense, in addition to actual damages for each complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney’s fees. Sanctions can be more severe if a respondent has a history of housing discrimination. Parties also have the right to elect to have their cases heard in federal district court.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1 (800) 669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing. Stay on top of the most up-to-date news regarding the Fair Housing Act by signing up for the FHEO RSS Feed at www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/index.cfm.
HUD is the nation’s housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation’s fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.