Local Paper Sued for Housing Discrimination

July 9, 2009 11:28:17 PM PDT
Current and past ads in the American Classifieds paper which indicate landlords want to rent to a married couple, or to no couples, or to families, or to single people, or to just a working female are included in a lawsuit brought by the Fair Housing Council of Central California.Council Director M.J. Borelli said, "Our claim of course is that they were running discriminatory ads, ads that were going to exclude certain kinds of people. That kind of practice is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act."

The lawsuit names the American Classifieds paper in Visalia. Borelli, says most of the housing discrimination deals with families.

"We're beginning to see a huge lot in the Central Valley of refusal to rent because of children, or different rules because of children." Borelli said.

One of the ads noted in the lawsuit is for an apartment in a small Visalia complex. It simply says for "not more than two people." The owners didn't want to be identified but told us they're not trying to discriminate against families. They claim their septic system can't handle a lot of tenants. Borelli says landlords and their advertisers need to be careful, not to discriminate.

"If you're going to be a housing provider you need to understand what the rules are and that you can't exclude folks because of the color of their skin, or their heritage or their age or their gender or the fact they have children or they are disabled. These things are prohibited by law." She said.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages against American Classifieds. Under the law, Borelli says they are obliged to make sure their advertising does not promote discrimination. Landlords who place the ads can also be held liable, but in this case only the paper is named as a defendant.

No one at the papers Visalia offices was aware of the suit. We were unable to contact anyone at company headquarters in Florida on Thursday night.

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