Facebook is changing its rental ad platform after a barrage of lawsuits claiming housing ads on the social media site are discriminatory.
Landlords who advertise on Facebook should be aware of potential liability for discrimination that can occur when selecting groups who can view the rental ads — and excluding groups who cannot.
To resolve the lion’s share of these lawsuits, including claims brought by the ACLU, Facebook has agreed to:
Create a new portal for rental ads with a limited set of targeting options so landlords no longer can exclude potential renters on the basis on gender, age, race and other protected classes. Previously, Facebook’s targeting options allowed landlords to exclude applicants based on interests such as parents of toddlers or religious affiliation;
Local ads must include a 15-mile radius rather than the previous system of choosing specific zip codes;
New automation and human oversight will be employed to catch discriminatory rental ads; and
Landlords will be required to certify compliance with anti-discrimination laws. Facebook will endeavor to educate landlords on those laws.
Facebook has agreed to continue to monitor its advertising platform to catch any algorithms that may be engendering discrimination. In addition, Facebook will continue to work with the parties to the various lawsuits and their lawyers, reviewing the reforms every six months for the next three years. These changes are expected to be in effect by September.
While these actions have resolved many of Facebook’s legal problems over housing ads, the ACLU settlement is not the last word on the subject. Housing watchdog HUD last week filed a charge of housing discrimination, alleging the rental advertising platform violates the Fair Housing Act.
Individual landlords could face liability when targeting prospective renters using online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. In addition to the housing discrimination suits, Facebook has been accused of fostering employment discrimination in its jobs listings. A corresponding class-action lawsuit was filed against hundreds of employers who used the advertising platforms.
Housing discrimination claims are costly and easily prevented. A good rule of thumb for avoiding housing discrimination in advertising, whether in print or online, is to focus on a description of the property along with the terms for tenant qualification. Don’t attempt to predict which tenant demographic is best suited for the property.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.