Real Estate & Property Law

New fair housing trial ordered over Craigslist ad touting 'great bachelor pad' apartment

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A fair housing group has been granted a new trial in a suit against an apartment rental company that placed a Craigslist ad touting a rental unit as “a great bachelor pad for any single man looking to hook up.”

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a new trial was warranted because the trial judge gave incorrect jury instructions, the Associated Press reports. How Appealing links to the story and the decision (PDF), issued Monday.

At issue was this jury instruction: “The question is not whether the particular advertisement discourages some potential renters from applying. The appropriate question is whether such discouragement is the product of any discriminatory statement or indication in the advertisement. … Ask yourselves whether the message focuses on the suitability of the property to the renter, which is permissible, or whether it impermissibly focuses on the suitability of the renter to the owner.”

The jury instruction was based on a Wisconsin case interpreting state law in formulating jury instructions, the 6th Circuit said. “Under such a suitability analysis, many ads would be permissible that in fact violate the [Fair] Housing Act. Consider, for example, the following advertisements: ‘Great house for people who like only white neighbors;’ ‘Great school district with all-white schools;’ ‘Property not suitable for families.’ ” Each would satisfy the judge’s jury instruction, though they would violate the Fair Housing Act, the court said.

The proper standard says an ad violates the fair housing law if it suggests to an ordinary reader that a particular protected group is “preferred or dispreferred” for housing, the appeals court said.

The plaintiff was the nonprofit Miami Valley Fair Housing Center and the defendant was the Connor Group based in Centerville, Ohio.

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