“The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sued San Francisco-based Craigslist, claiming that during a six-month period beginning in July, the site ran more than 100 ads in Chicago that violated the federal Fair Housing Act. The committee, a public interest consortium of the city’s leading law firms, said in a federal suit that those ads discriminated on race, religion, sex, family status or national origin.” Craigslist does not screen ads in advance, although it gives readers a way to flag unlawful or inappropriate content for possible removal. According to the complaint (Chicago Lawyers Committee v. Craigslist, PDF format), some of the rental ads carried such damning indicators of putative bigotry as “Perfect place for city single” (unfair to families of eight!) and “very quiet street opposite church” (trying to screen out atheists, are you?), and many are plainly for roommate shares or other live-in situations. Paging David Bernstein! (Mike Hughlett, “Craigslist sued over housing ad bias”, Chicago Tribune/Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Feb. 8)(via Reynolds). Eric Goldman says a similar earlier suit against Roommate.com did not fare well (Feb. 8). For more on the issue of “discrimination” in roommate selection, see Jul. 10-11, 2002; for more on such complaints against Craigslist, see Aug. 10, 2005. (& welcome Instapundit readers).
Roommate preferences, improper mention that a listed property is near churches or synagogues, hints about age or family status: it’s easy to step on a legal land mine when listing your apartment rental. “The Internet is like the Wild, Wild West. People just speak their minds,” tut-tuts D.C. civil rights attorney John Relman (Sarah Lesher, “Online housing ads spur concern over bias”, Washington Times, Aug. 9)(via David Bernstein, who comments). Update: Feb. 9, 2006 (suit filed).