Apartment Living BlogFair Housing › Fair Housing Lady: Disability in Advertising

 

Dear Fair Housing Lady,

 

I follow you all the time and was checking in to see if there is “breaking news” that you might want to share…

 

Sincerely,

 

A Devoted Follower


Dear Devoted,

 

How I love to have readers that keep up with what I have to say. Not that those readers necessarily agree with nor follow what I might suggest (suggest but not advise, as FHL never gives legal advice). Your inquiry affords me now with a snarky (not aimed at you, of course) “I told you so” moment.

 

For years, I have been touting the fair housing requirement that when communities use human models in their advertising, such advertising should reasonably represent minority as well as majority groups. I have regularly pointed out that one group (a fair housing protected class on the federal level) is consistently ignored. That group is those with disabilities. I have long said they should be included, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because this could mitigate damages in a non-advertising case based on disability (think design issues, reasonable accommodation issues and the like). And I have warned that, someday, the failure to include people with disabilities would create a legal problem for a landlord. And that has now happened!

 

A recent California case cites a litany of issues by the Plaintiff against the Defendants (currently the owner of the community and the manager of the community, but with possible other defendants to be added) based on disability. Claim II, Item 56 in part says this:

 

…Defendants had the opportunity, based upon either the large number of models used in an advertisement or the numerous advertisements placed by an advertiser with a particular publisher, to include models of persons with handicaps, a protected group under the FHA. …Plaintiff can establish liability based on the “ordinary reader” standard. Defendants’ Internet advertising uses selective media or content exclusively to cater to the majority population without disabilities. …none of the human models used in the said advertising have a known disability.

 

Will Plaintiff, who is asking for a variety of damages and a jury trial, prevail on this issue if it goes to trial? That I do not know, but I do believe that Plaintiff has a fighting chance of doing so.

 

So, what is the take-away here? That there is no reason that Fair Housing Lady can see for anyone using human models in apartment advertising not to include people with disabilities (unless of course, being involved as a defendant in one of the test cases on this issue appeals to you).

This is neither difficult nor costly to do it right. C’mon, folks!

Nadeen Green

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