AG Racine and Apartments.com Announce New Effort to Fight Housing Discrimination in Online Rental Listings

October 30, 2019
Apartments.com to Block Discriminatory Ads Against Low-Income Renters in the District and Nationwide
WASHINGTON, D.C.– Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced Apartments.com will take additional steps to eliminate discriminatory housing advertisements from its platform as a result of a collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Apartments.com—a leading online apartment listing website—launched an enhanced content filter and review process aimed at eliminating online ads that discriminate against renters who rely on Section 8 vouchers and other forms of housing assistance. The enhanced filter will apply across the country, not just in areas where local laws prohibit this type of discrimination. Apartments.com also worked closely with OAG to update the information it provides about federal and local fair housing protections.
“District residents are struggling to find safe and affordable places to live, and when landlords discriminate against voucher-holders, they contribute to housing segregation and shut families out of access to opportunity,” said AG Racine. “We are pleased that Apartments.com has partnered with us in the fight against source-of-income discrimination. Their increased efforts will help level the playing field for low-income families and expand housing opportunity for renters in the District and across the country.”
Apartments.com is owned and operated by CoStar Group, a leading provider of commercial real estate information and online marketplaces. The Apartments.com network of sites includes Apartments.com, ForRent.com, ApartmentFinder.com, ApartmentHomeLiving.com, Apartamentos.com, WestsideRentals.com, ForRentUniversity.com, among others, and offers renters access to actionable information on over 1,000,000 units for rent.
The District’s Human Rights Act (HRA) is one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country. It broadly outlaws discrimination based on traits including race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and disability. The HRA specifically outlaws housing discrimination based on source of income. This means it is illegal for landlords to refuse to rent to prospective tenants simply because they rely on vouchers or other forms of housing assistance. However, despite this protection, a recent study showed that 15 percent of District landlords still refused to accept vouchers.
As part of a broad effort to fight housing discrimination in the District, OAG reached out to major technology companies that host apartment rental listings, including CoStar Group, requesting their assistance to ensure real estate listings on their platforms comply with District law. In response, Apartments.com and OAG worked together to compile a list of words and phrases linked to source of income discrimination that the company began to filter out. Apartments.com rolled out this filter, which rejects postings that include phrases like “no vouchers” or “no Section 8,” in October 2019. Apartments.com also added a manual review process to catch any discriminatory postings that make it past the filter. As a result of these changes, Apartments.com has allowed zero discriminatory ads in D.C. to be posted directly on its platform in the last three weeks.
“Apartments.com is committed to providing advertisers and renters the best platform for connecting future residents with their ideal homes. Collaborating with OAG on its important mission to eliminate source of income housing in the District of Columbia was an easy choice. We will continue to look for ways to improve the experience on our sites, in and out of D.C.,” said Simon Law, Senior VP of Apartments.com Operations.
With OAG’s assistance, Apartments.com also enhanced the information on fair housing rights that it provides to renters and advertisers in its Equal Opportunity in Housing Statement. The company also agreed to explore additional ways to inform renters about their rights and advertisers about their legal obligations moving forward.
Apartments.com’s updated Equal Opportunity in Housing Statement available at: https://www.apartments.com/about/equal-opportunity-in-housing-statement
A copy of OAG’s original letter to CoStar Group is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/CoStar-Voucher-Letter.pdf
In addition to CoStar Group, OAG also reached out to Zillow.com and Craigslist.com requesting their help to fight housing discrimination and ensure real estate listings on their platforms comply with District law.
Civil Rights Resources
OAG protects the civil rights of District residents by bringing lawsuits to challenge discrimination, advocating for legislation to strengthen antidiscrimination laws, and engaging in educational community outreach so that residents know their rights. Learn more about illegal discrimination and how OAG is working to defend your civil rights.
The Civil Rights Section investigates and challenges discriminatory policies and practices that have significant impact on the people of the District. If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, you may report it to the Civil Rights Section by:
Calling (202) 727-3400
E-mailing us at OAGCivilRights@dc.gov
Mailing OAG, ATTN: Civil Rights Section at 441 4th Street N.W., Suite 600S, Washington, D.C. 20001
OAG is working to bolster the District’s effectiveness in enforcing the HRA on a larger scale. In the last year, OAG has filed lawsuits against Evolve LLC and Curtis Investment Group, landlords that unlawfully discriminated against low-income renters, and reached a settlement with Renewal by Andersen, a window company that illegally refused to do business in certain District neighborhoods. OAG also called on major online apartment rental listing companies to help fight housing discrimination on their platforms, and held several Civil Rights Listening Sessions across the District.
OAG’s goal is to ensure equal treatment and meaningful opportunity for all District residents by complementing the work of the Office of Human Rights (OHR), the primary District agency that investigates individual complaints of discrimination. You can file a complaint with OHR at https://ohr.dc.gov/ or call 202-727-4559.

Content retrieved from: https://oag.dc.gov/release/ag-racine-and-apartmentscom-announce-new-effort.

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