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Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommate.com, LLC

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant manages a website to obtain a roommate, which allows users to put personal information such as their sex, familial status, and sexual orientation. Plaintiff claims the website is discriminatory and brought suit. The trial court held for the Plaintiffs, and Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The Fair Housing Act does not apply to the selection of roommates.

     

    Facts.

    Defendant, Roommate.com, LLC, manages a website to find a roommate. On the website, users may post information such as their sex, familial status, and sexual orientation. Plaintiffs, Fair Housing Councils of San Fernando Valley and San Diego, initiated this action on the grounds that Defendant’s website was discriminatory and against the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The trial court held for the Plaintiffs in their motion for summary judgment, and Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether the Fair Housing Act applies to the selection of roommates.

    Held.

    No, the Fair Housing Act does not apply to the selection of roommates.

    Discussion.

    The FHA prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of color, sex, religion, race, national origin, and familial status in the “sale or rental of a dwelling.” Nevertheless, the FHA does not expressly include the selection of roommates, even though the court noted that it could be interpreted in the context of shared living units as well. The court further explained that one has the right to intimate association, as well as the right not to associate, which are fundamental liberties. Also, the choice of a roommate has substantial safety precautions, given the intimate nature of the relationship in a home. Therefore, the court construed the FHA narrowly and inapplicable to shared living units. Defendant’s website does not violate FHA.


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