Fair Housing Council v. Roommate.com, LLC

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 02-02-2012
  • Case #: 09-55969
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief Judge Alex Kozinki for the Court; Circuit Judges S. Reinhardt and S. Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

Roommate selection based on sex, sexual orientation, and familial status does not violate the federal Fair Housing Act or California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Roommate.com (“Roommate”) offers a service in which persons looking for roommates are matched based on criteria that include each person’s preferences, including a potential roommate’s sex, sexual orientation, and family status. The Fair Housing Councils of San Fernando Valley and San Diego (“FHC’s”) sued Roommate in federal court, claiming that the matching of users based on these criteria violated the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). The district court dismissed the claims, finding that Roommate was immune under the federal Communications Decency Act (“CDA”). The 9th Circuit reversed, holding that Roommate was only protected by the CDA for publishing the “Additional Comments” section, but not for its selection process. On remand, the district court held that Roommate had in fact violated the FHA and FEHA because it solicits discriminatory preferences from users. On appeal, the Court found that Roommate did not violate the FHA and FEHA because, 1) the lawmaking bodies did not mean for the FHA to apply to the arrangements between two people sharing the same living space, 2) the Constitutional right to association also implies a right not to associate, especially within a relationship as intimate as between roommates, 3) governmental regulation of roommate selection would involve an intrusion into the home, which enjoys special protection and the center of privacy. Accordingly, the Court vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded for entry of judgment for Roommate. VACATED AND REMANDED IN PART; DISMISSED IN PART.

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