A prospective tenant with great credit, a steady flow of income and no prior criminal history seems like the perfect fit for any landlord. But what happens when it’s revealed that individual’s line of work exists in what some believe to be a moral gray area?
Aurora Snow, the former adult film actress-turned journalist penned an opinion piece for news publication The Daily Beast that detailed accounts of discrimination by landlords. This discrimination wasn’t race or gender-based per se, but solely due to the occupation of Snow and others.
The Fair Housing Act — passed in 1968 as part of the Civil Rights Act — makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin in the renting or selling of housing. The law does not mention occupation.
“In general, the Federal Fair Housing Law protects individuals from discrimination based on seven identified classes, and occupation is not currently among the list of protected classes,” Katie Johnson, National Association of Realtors (NAR) general counsel told Inman, noting that sometimes state law includes additional protected classes.
“In general, housing decisions should not be made based on categorizing or classifying a person in any particular group,” she added. “While the federal fair housing law prohibits discrimination based on seven protected classes, it also prohibits any discrimination of individuals that would lead to having a disparate impact on a protected class. So it is always best for real estate professionals to provide their clients with equal professional service.”
It’s true that there’s often work requirements for some renters. Landlords want to ensure that the renter will be able to regularly make that payment on the first of the month. But in this case, Snow said she had a steady income and good credit.
“I was young, had great credit and plenty of money, and had even agreed to put down three times the deposit,” Snow writes in The Daily Beast. “But it wasn’t enough. He grilled me about my employers in person, demanded to know why I did ‘it,’ and wanted to know how I could ‘live with myself.’”
Dani Vespoli, a veteran of the adult film industry for 15 years, detailed in the piece how a landlord altered a lease agreement to ensure no adult content would be filmed in the home. Evelyn Milano, a dominatrix used her home to film videos, but when it came time to sell, a buyer insisted on a reduced price due to the activity that used to take place there.
In the piece Milano wonders: “People have sex in houses all the time, how is that any different than porn?”
Adult films are often shot in private homes — which has been a boon to some areas, as detailed in a Business Insider piece — which means there’s a chance if you live in an area like Los Angeles, your home could have once been the setting of an adult film.
Is it fair to discriminate against an individual for their line of work? The making of adult films isn’t explicitly illegal, but neither is the act of discriminating against an individual based on their occupation.