Real estate companies under fire for Facebook discrimination

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Seven real estate companies are now facing age-discrimination complaints over allegations they used advertisements posted on Facebook to filter out potential clients over a certain age.

The complaints, filed in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, include claims against two firms with dozens of listings in New York, Bozzuto and Greystar.

The nonprofit Housing Rights Initiative and 54-year-old D.C. resident Neuhtah Opiotennione lodged two separate 47-page complaints with the D.C. and Montgomery County Human Rights offices, alleging Bozzuto, Greystar and five other companies deliberately prevented older users from seeing rental property, but displayed those Facebook ads to younger users.

According to the complaints, the companies placed an "upper age limit" on users eligible to view advertisements.

The D.C. complaint alleges Bozzuto, which currently lists 10 rentals in Manhattan and Brooklyn, used Facebook ads stating the company wanted "to reach people who are below a certain age." The target threshold spanned from 22- to 40-years old, the complaint claims.

"I'm shocked and disappointed to hear that I, along with other older residents, have been excluded from housing ads on Facebook," said Opiotennione, who works in D.C. public schools and was searching for a place there and in Maryland for a year. "We deserve the same opportunity to hear about apartments as younger people."

In March, Facebook agreed to disable audience selection tools within ads it runs. But that didn't stop the federal government from filing a still-pending housing discrimination lawsuit against the media giant a week later.

Bozzuto, Greystar and Facebook did not immediately respond.

"Housing discrimination was banned nationwide in 1968," said HRI Executive Director Aaron Carr. "It's shocking that over 50 years later so many major companies in America seem to have ignored the message."

Tribune Content Agency