WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced Zillow, an online real estate and rental marketplace company, is working with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to prevent discriminatory housing advertisements from appearing on its platforms. Under District law, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against people who rely on housing assistance, including vouchers, to pay for all or part of their rent. The company has improved its existing filter to catch listings with words or phrases commonly connected to source of income discrimination for the District, which it will review periodically for effectiveness and refine as needed. Zillow joins Apartments.com as the second company to take such steps. OAG is actively seeking similar partnerships with Craigslist and Bright MLS, both of which operate real estate listing platforms.
“Denying people the right to use housing assistance for rent—including vouchers—exacerbates an affordable housing crisis that is already squeezing out too many District residents,” said AG Racine. “The Office of Attorney General appreciates Zillow’s willingness to collaborate with the District in our fight against source of income discrimination. We need more partners like Zillow and Apartments.com to step up and ensure that landlords who operate on these platforms comply with the District’s anti-discrimination laws.”
Zillow Group, Inc., is a publicly traded company headquartered in Seattle, Wash. The company offers District residents and users nationwide access to data on over 110 million homes in the United States, helping consumers when buying, selling, renting, and financing their next home. The company has acquired several online real estate subsidiaries, including HotPads and Trulia, and operates over two dozen real estate smartphone apps.
The District’s Human Rights Act (HRA) is one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country. It broadly outlaws discrimination based on 21 traits including race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and disability. The HRA specifically outlaws housing discrimination based on source of income, making it illegal for landlords to refuse prospective tenants simply because they rely on vouchers or other forms of housing assistance. Despite this protection, a recent study showed that 15 percent of District landlords still refuse to accept vouchers.
As part of a broad effort to fight source of income discrimination in the District, OAG reached out to Zillow requesting the company’s assistance in addressing property listings posted by landlords on its online platforms did not comply with District law. Zillow worked with OAG to improve its filter across all its platforms that identifies and removes content that include a now-expanded list of words or phrases associated with source of income discrimination. The filter is active in the District, and will be subject to a new quarterly manual review process to periodically test for flaws and add any necessary additional words or phrases. Additionally, Zillow updated the information on fair housing rights described on the platform’s “Respectful Renting Pledge” for landlords and property managers, and is taking steps to educate its users on the problem of source of income discrimination. The company will continue working with OAG on other fronts related to this issue.
"Zillow believes that everyone deserves to find a home, free from discrimination in the process,” said Racquel Russell, Zillow's Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs. “Zillow is committed to ensuring our customers have an equitable experience on our platform and are committed to driving this work forward. We applaud Attorney General Racine's efforts to fight housing discrimination and are proud to partner with his team.”
Civil Rights Resources
OAG’s Civil Rights Section protects District residents by bringing lawsuits to challenge discrimination, advocating for legislation to strengthen antidiscrimination laws, and engaging in educational community outreach so that residents know their rights. OAG’s efforts complement the work of the Office of Human Rights (OHR), the primary District agency that investigates individual complaints of discrimination. Click here to learn more about OAG’s work to defend your civil rights. A Spanish translation is available here.
If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, you may report it by:
- Calling OAG at (202) 727-3400
- E-mailing OAG at OAGCivilRights@dc.gov
- Mailing OAG, ATTN: Civil Rights Section at 441 4th Street N.W., Suite 600S, Washington, D.C. 20001
- Filing a complaint with OHR by visiting https://ohr.dc.gov/ or calling 202-727-4559
OAG is working to bolster the District’s effectiveness in enforcing the HRA on a larger scale. In the last year, AG Racine sued Evolve LLC and Curtis Investment Group, landlords that unlawfully discriminated against low-income renters, and reached a settlement with Renewal by Andersen, a window company that illegally refused to do business in certain District neighborhoods. This summer, OAG held several community listening sessions on civil rights and released a report summarizing the input residents shared: “Community Voices: Perspectives on Civil Rights in the District of Columbia.” AG Racine also introduced legislation in the Council of the District of Columbia to allow the office to bring civil cases against people who commit violent acts motivated by bias, regardless of whether they are criminally charged, and to clarify OAG’s enforcement authority under the HRA.