Southern California web site agrees to pay $15,000 and put fair housing pop-ups on real estate pages

Southern California’s largest web site service for rental opportunities will pay $15,000 and make sweeping changes to its web site pursuant to a federal court Consent Decree obtained by the Southern California Housing Rights Center (HRC). Under the Consent Decree and Final Order, signed by Judge Dickran Tevrizian on April 18, 2002, Westside Rentals must display a prominent antidiscrimination message on each of its website’s three pages. The decree also calls for a pop-up box with an antidiscrimination message that appears whenever a landlord attempts to create a new listing on the website.

Along with payment of $15,000 to HRC, the defendants must participate in a two-year program under the court’s supervision. Additional terms include reformatting the website to prohibit inclusion of discriminatory words or phrases; mailing a copy of Westside Rental Connection’s anti-discrimination policy to all landlords in its database; stating in any advertisement that Westside Rental Connection is an Equal Housing Opportunity provider; mandatory fair housing training for owners and at least forty employees; posting of fair housing signs in each office operated by the Westside Rental Connection; providing each employee with a copy of the Consent Decree; and providing HRC a permanent no-cost membership with Westside Rental Connection’s rental search services, which HRC will use for monitoring and testing purposes.

The Housing Rights Center ("HRC") filed suit against Westside Rental Connection ("Westside Rentals") after the website service published numerous rental advertisements demonstrating preferences based on familial status (e.g. "Children not preferred") and source of income. Los Angeles and Orange County landlords post over 14,000 rental listings each day on Westside Rentals’ web site.

Pop-up box will warn landlords about discrimination

The pop-up box on the web site is a very interesting settlement term. The wording of the pop-up message reads: "All submissions are subject to the federal and California fair housing laws which make it illegal to indicate in any advertisement any preference, limitation, or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, familial status (e.g. "No children" or "Not suitable for Children"), sexual orientation, ancestry, marital status, or source of income (e.g. "No Section 8"). Your local jurisdiction may impose additional requirements."

The HRC was represented by Gary Rhoades and Danielle Jones. The defendants were represented by Louis Chao of Sabaitis & O’Callaghan.

FHC of San Gabriel Valley v. Westside Rentals, et al.
Case No. 02-02283 DT
Gary Rhoades and Danielle Jones,
Attorneys for Plaintiffs