In Fair Housing Council v. Roommate.com, the 9th circuit held that the Fair Housing Act did not apply to the selection of roommates. The gist, if I read correctly, is that FHA was not intended to govern relationships inside of a home, and that sharing living space constitutes an "intimate human relationship" of the sort that the Constitution protects from regulation.

How far does that go? For example, suppose a house has many bedrooms, but tenants share a kitchen, bathrooms, and other common space, and decisions are made by a vote of the members. Would the roommate exemption in Fair Housing Council still apply? It's still clearly a single dwelling, but the larger size and institutional character makes it look less like a conventional household.

What factors might a court consider in determining the applicability of FHA to such a situation?

1 Answer 1


From the opinion in Fair Housing Council v. Roommate.com (2012):

There's no indication that Congress intended to interfere with personal relationships inside the home. Congress wanted to address the problems of landlords discriminating in the sale and rental of housing, which deprived classes of housing opportunities. But a business transaction between a tenant and landlord is quite different from an arrangement between two people sharing the same living space.

And, also from the opinion:

Nothing in the language of the statute provides that a "housing accommodation" includes shared living quarters.

Applying the ruling to your question it seems that if a landlord rents an entire house to a group then the group may make any determination they wish as to who will be members of the group sharing the living quarters, no matter how many bedrooms the dwelling has.

On the other hand, if the landlord rents individual bedrooms as part of individual rental agreements that includes shared facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms, then the landlord may not discriminate in the renting of the individual bedrooms.

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