Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) filed a fair housing complaint against Facebook. Facebook? What does Facebook have to do with housing discrimination and the Fair Housing Act (FHA)? Well, with its complaint, HUD asserts that Facebook allows property managers and home sellers to use its advertising platform in such a manner as to promote housing discrimination. Here’s how:
HUD claims Facebook “enables advertisers to control which users receive housing-related ads” based upon the recipient’s membership in a protected class. HUD further argues that Facebook essentially invites advertisers to “express unlawful preferences” in violation of federal law.
HUD provided certain examples of what it claims violates the FHA in this context. To the extent your company engages in targeted adverting, here are some thoughts (according to HUD) you might want to avoid:
*running housing advertisements to only men;
*running housing advertisements to only women;
*excluding advertisements to individuals looking for “assistance animals” or “mobility scooters”;
*excluding “child care” or “parenting” concerns in your advertising;
*either running or excluding advertising to individuals Facebook has identified as interested in a particular religion or faith;
*either running or excluding advertising to individuals Facebook has identified as from another country or a different part of the world; and/or
*drawing what is known as a “red line” around certain zip codes and then have Facebook not display ads to users who live there.
Does this mean housing providers cannot or should not run targeted advertising as you seek to find renters? Of course not. But if you choose to target your advertising, design the campaign to help ensure you do not exclude potential renters based on their membership in one or more protected classes. If you have questions about targeted advertising, you might want to speak with a lawyer like me or risk a Facebook-type complaint filed by HUD.
Just A Thought.