The anti-discrimination provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act do not extend to the selection of roommates, the Ninth Circuit has ruled in reversing judgment. Two local fair housing organizations in California sued Roommates.com, alleging that the website violated the Fair Housing Act. Roommates.com, a website that links prospective roommates, was accused of facilitating discrimination in soliciting information from applicants, including gender, sexual orientation, and number of children. Two years ago, a federal judge ruled that Roommates.com was not exempted from the Fair Housing Act, and ordered that it cease asking that information from prospective roommates.
On February 3, 2012, the Ninth Circuit maintained that the household is beyond governmental regulation. The main reason named was privacy. Due to the private nature of many activities within the home, prospective roommates have the right not to live with unwanted roommates, or those with whom they would feel uncomfortable. Those prospective roommates should, the Court explained, have the opportunity to choose with whom they would like to share a home, and their inclusion of roommate preferences can enhance this decision process.