A recent study from ProPublica, “Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race” describes how Facebook’s tools for audience targeting allow housing advertisers to exclude specific racial and ethnic groups from seeing their ads. Facebook justifies this practice with the argument that: “Everyone benefits from access to content that’s more relevant to them” and points out that targeted advertising is commonplace. This is certainly true – billboards in Spanish are generally found in communities with large Spanish speaking populations, and advertisements for hair care products and cosmetics aimed at black consumers are never found in mostly white suburbs. The positive side of targeted advertising has, however, an ugly negative equivalent. Everyone who is not targeted is excluded, and that exclusion may be illegal. Who’s not standing on the bulls-eye in this picture? A family, someone with a disability, perhaps a Muslim. Does that mean they are unwelcome? Perhaps not, but it sure looks likes it. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, Animals, Apartments, FHA, FHA Emotional Support Animals Tags: Fair Housing Act Emotional Support Animals, Fair Housing Act medical verification. Emotional Support Animals
Nobody likes fake Emotional Support Animal letters, but a recent DOJ consent decree should remind apartment owners that reasonable verification of a disability can spill over into unreasonable discriminatory demands.
The DOJ press release, and a link to the decree, can be found HERE. The apartment managers’ sin was requiring that an individual claiming to be disabled provide a “prescription” for the emotional support animal that included an assumption of liability by the health care provider for damage caused by the animal. You don’t have to be a mind reader to understand what management was thinking. If the health care provider is taking a risk, he or she will be more honest about the existence of a disability. HUD, DOJ, and any court would see it differently. They saw threatening a health care provider as a way of keeping those with disabilities from exercising their rights. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, ADA FHA General, ADA FHA Litigation General, Apartments, FHA, FHA Reasonable Accommodation, Reasonable accommodation Tags: City Vision, dialing for dollars, Fair Housing Advocates, HUD complaint, Patrick Coleman, Texas Workforce Commission
I’ve written before about the dialing for dollars phenomenon in Fair Housing Act claims (click here) and about how cheap standing facilitates litigation aimed more at profit than progress (click here). There is good news on both fronts from the Texas Workforce Commission, which recently dismissed several FHA complaints because the organization that filed them, a private corporation called Fair Housing Advocates, could not demonstrate it had standing. Fair Housing Advocates is operated by Patrick Coleman, one of the two owners of City Vision, a similar organization devoted to making money by means of HUD complaints. Citi Vision appears to have abandoned the dialing for dollars business earlier this year, probably because TWC started dismissing its complaints for lack of standing. More
After reading a recent blog in which the author asserted that “handicap” under the Fair Housing Act had the same meaning as “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act I thought it would be useful to re-visit this question, which I last wrote about in 2014. There have been a few new decisions, none decisive, and the bottom line remains the same. The 2008 amendments to the ADA changed the definition of “disabled,” but there was no equivalent amendment to the FHA. Ordinary principles of statutory interpretation require the conclusion that the two words no longer have the same meaning. For all the details see my earlier blog by clicking this LINK. It has been updated with the more recent decisions in this area.
Guidance from HUD and DOJ is nice to have, but ultimately the courts are responsible for deciding what the Fair Housing Act means. In Fair Hous. Rights Ctr. in Se. Pennsylvania v. Post Goldtex GP, LLC, 2016 WL 2865733 (3d Cir. May 17, 2016) the Third Circuit confirmed HUD and DOJ’s position that FHA accessibility standards do not apply to pre-1991 buildings, even if they have been for the first time converted to residential use. This will help urban project developers who want to preserve historic structures but find it impossible to make new residences meet all of the FHA accessibility guidelines. More