Is It Housing Discrimination to Seek a Gay-Friendly Roomate?

Last Updated Aug 13, 2009 5:29 PM EDT

Dear Ali;
I read your post about how advertising for a gay roommate is a violation of Fair Housing laws. Well, I'm gay, and I need a roommate, but I don't care if they're gay or straight, male or female, short or tall -- I just don't want to be lectured about my lifestyle. Can I advertise for a "gay-friendly" roommate?
A: This one was trickier than it looked, but I checked in with my Fair Housing experts and the consensus is "yes." It's illegal to discriminate by specifying members of what's called a protected class. For example, race is a protected class, so you can't run an ad that says "Roommate Wanted, Whites Only." And you can't run an ad that says "Roommate Wanted, Gay Males Only," because gender is a protected class, and in some places (like New York City) sexual orientation is, too. But it's okay to ask for a behavior, and asking for tolerance is just as fine as asking a roommate if they're neat and quiet.

Good luck, and I hope you land somebody nice who does the dishes.

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  • Alison Rogers

    Since graduating from Harvard summa cum laude, Alison Rogers has been a reporter, an editor, a real-estate agent, a Wall Street desk jockey, a columnist, a failed flipper, and a landlady. A member of the National Association of Realtors, she currently sells and rents luxury co-ops in Manhattan for the Chelsea-based firm DG Neary. (If you've got $27,500 a month, the firm has an apartment for you!) Her book, Diary of a Real Estate Rookie, was called "a valuable guide for rookie buyers" by AOL/Walletpop, "beach-read fun" by the New York Observer, and "witty" by Newsweek.