How do I avoid accusations of discrimination?

Member question:

I would want to know that if I am forming a community and mention in the group section or in the chat that we are looking to maintain an ethnically and racially diverse membership, that this wouldn’t fall under laws meant to protect people from unfair discrimination in housing. What if I respond to someone who is white and say: “I’m sorry but we have already filled the amount of white people in our housing units. Our group has agreed to maintain a racially diverse group of members, and we are currently only open to BIPOC applicants.” Does this qualify as illegal housing discrimination?

ICmatch response:

A court might consider this illegal discrimination if you already had the housing and were publicly advertising an available unit. Here are some legal options for achieving your goal:

  • Invite people to explore your group or IC and get on your waiting list. When you have a waiting list, you can simply invite people in who are the best fit, without ever having to pointedly reject any applicant.
  • You are likely to have several selection criteria. You aren’t obligated to tell each applicant which criteria they didn’t meet. If they ask, you can state it was a group decision and you decided another applicant was a better fit.  
  • There may be a legal exception you could get from local housing authorities based on a non-profit mission or your business needs. For example, retirement homes have an exemption from age and gender discrimination laws.

Someone could accuse you even if you’ve done nothing illegal. As long as you’re creating your founding group first, then secure housing afterward, any legal hassle is likely to blow over quickly. If you have substantial assets to protect, then it’s wise to get legal advice that takes into account local laws and policies. For more on how to avoid accusations of discrimination, see our page “Stay Legal and Fair With Housing.”