A roommate pairing service, not licensed as real estate brokers, required users to disclose their sex, sexual orientation and familial status and matched potential roommates based on these disclosures. A fair housing council sought to stop the service from requiring users to disclose this information, claiming it violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which prohibits discrimination on the bases of sex or familial status. The service claimed roommate selection was excluded from these FHA prohibitions, since controlling who may or may not share a living space raises constitutional concerns. A California appeals court held the roommate pairing service’s practice of soliciting and disclosing information on an individual’s sex, sexual orientation and familial status is not prohibited by FHA, since individuals may select roommates for shared living units based on these factors. [Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommate.com, LLC (February 2, 2012) _ CA4th _]

Editor’s note: The FHA applies only to “dwellings,” meaning a living unit designed for occupancy by a family. Thus, the FHA does not apply to roommate situations, as they have to do with relationships within the dwelling, as subparts of the larger living space. When enacting the FHA, Congress intended to prevent landlords from discriminating in the renting and selling of property. It did not intend to regulate the arrangement between people sharing the same living space.