A Chicago landlord who ran an advertisement on craigslist seeking "young college students or single females" faces charges that he violated the Fair Housing Act.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development claims the ad posted by the landlord, Cesar A. Lopez, discriminates against men and families with children.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits advertisements that state a preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability

Lopez’s January 2006 ad — which advertised an apartment in an owner-occupied, three-story building — allegedly promised a "great apartment for a single person."

The ad was flagged by a nonprofit group, the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Inc., which monitors craigslist.

According to HUD, Lopez told the group that he believed the ad was just "being honest" and that "girls really are cleaner."

The Chicago Lawyers Committee sued craigslist in February 2006, saying it was responsible for the content of similar ads published by the online classified service.

Ads cited by the group in that lawsuit included statements such as "Requirements: Clean Godly Christian Male," "Non-Women of Color NEED NOT APPLY," and "No children."

In a November 2006 ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted craigslist’s motion to dismiss the suit, saying Web sites that serve as intermediaries and allow users to post ads or commentary enjoy protections under the Communications Decency Act not afforded to print publications such as newspapers.

The Chicago Lawyers Committee appealed the decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments in the case last month.

HUD said a hearing on the charges against Lopez is scheduled for May 20 before a U.S. administrative law judge, unless any of the parties in the case elect to have the case heard in U.S. District Court.

Discrimination charges heard before an administrative law judge carry a maximum civil penalty of $16,000 for a first offense, in addition to actual damages for each complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney’s fees.


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