Ten property management companies are in the crosshairs of a proposed class action that alleges they “routinely and deliberately” exclude older people from viewing Facebook advertisements for dozens of apartment complexes in the Washington D.C. metro area.
The 55-page lawsuit, filed in Maryland federal court, claims the below defendants have knowingly and overtly aimed to eliminate an entire group of people—those older than 50—from receiving housing advertisements via Facebook in violation of District and county civil rights and consumer protection laws:
Bozzuto Management Company;
Greystar Management Services L.P.;
Kettler Management Inc.;
Wood Residential Services, LLC;
Fairfield Residential Company LLC;
JBG Smith Management Services, LLC:
Pinnacle Campus Living LLC;
Tower Construction Group, LLC;
Vantage Management, Inc.; and
Berkshire Communities, LLC.
Filed by the non-profit Housing Rights Initiative and a 55-year-old prospective tenant, the complaint alleges the digital housing discrimination at issue is systemic in that the defendants include several “industry leaders” who manage thousands of apartments nationwide. These companies knowingly paid Facebook, who is not named as a defendant, substantial sums of money with the express intent of withholding rental housing ads from older consumers, the suit claims.
According to the case, the defendants’ conduct is not unlike the “historical practices of redlining and racial steering” that sparked the passage of fair-housing laws.
“Acting in unison, these leading residential property management companies distorted and skewed the D.C. metropolitan housing market with age discrimination and made it harder for older residents to learn about, apply for, and secure suitable rental housing,” the case summarizes, claiming the companies engaged in the alleged conduct long after Facebook itself was sued over purportedly enabling digital housing discrimination.
The plaintiffs aim to secure a declaration from the court that the defendants’ digital housing discrimination is unlawful, as well as an injunction prohibiting the companies from denying housing ads based on age. The suit also looks to bar the defendants from placing housing ads on Facebook “so long as Facebook’s ad delivery algorithm relies on age to determine which users receive housing ads.”
“Unless and until these industry leaders are held accountable for their digital discrimination and are forced to stop ageist advertising, the housing industry may believe that it can act with impunity and in reckless disregard for tenants’ fair-housing rights,” the lawsuit says. “They may believe that it is appropriate and lawful to micro-target prospective tenants or home purchasers based on age, race, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, or other protected traits. But that is not the law.”
The lawsuit looks to represent those who have actively searched for housing and/or changed residences in the District of Columbia metropolitan area, have routinely used Facebook and have been or are being excluded from receiving a housing-related advertisement from defendants because the companies placed an upper age limited on the population of Facebook users eligible to receive the ad.
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