A Craigslist ad reading “no teenagers please” in all capitals landed one New Orleans landlord in serious trouble.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) charged Earmastine Nelson with housing discrimination for an online ad posted to Craigslist in 2014.
As the landlord and joint-owner of the property, Nelson was trying to rent out an apartment in a two-story single-family home in New Orleans, Louisiana. To reach prospective renters, she published an online ad asking families with teenagers to not apply.
“Will accept 2 small children,” the ad, which Nelson posted on Craigslist around July 27, 2014, read. “NO TEENAGERS PLEASE.”
After seeing the ad online, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center filed a discrimination complaint to the HUD. The charge, which you can read here, claims that the ad is illegal under the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968, the law making it illegal to withhold housing services “based on familial status,” among many other factors (race, religion, sex, disability status among them).
“Discrimination against families with children — no matter the age — violates the law and limits the housing opportunities of those families,” said J. Paul Compton, HUD’s General Counsel, in a statement. “HUD will continue to take action to protect the rights of families.”
To review the claims presented in the charge, two testers tried calling and saying they were interested in the house they saw in the ad. When the first tester said she had three children, one of them 12 years old, the landlord reportedly said she “didn’t want a bunch of kids. It’s a beautiful apartment.”
As a result, the HUD charged Nelson with posting an advertisement that displayed preference for a particular familiar structure — and thereby violating Section 804(c) of the Fair Housing Act. Later this year, an Administrative Law Judge will hear Nelson’s case and determine potential penalties and compensation for the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.
“Landlords do not have the right to deny a family a place to live just because they have children,” Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “Today’s enforcement action reaffirms HUD’s commitment to ensuring that housing providers meet their obligation to treat all applicants for housing the same, including families with children.”