A federal lawsuit filed in Jacksonville claims that tenant-screening algorithms are fueling civil rights violations and perpetuating housing discrimination against Black renters. The lawsuit accuses JWB Property Management and JWB Real Estate Capital, two major landlords in Northeast Florida, of using algorithms that wrongfully deny housing to individuals based on eviction filings. The lawsuit argues that these algorithms disproportionately impact Black renters, who historically have faced a higher number of eviction filings compared to other racial groups.
The lawsuit highlights the growing issue of technology intersecting with the housing market and the potential for unintended consequences. Tenant-screening services, which rely on background-checking software, have become increasingly common, but they have also led to numerous court battles over violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Many of these cases involve mistaken identities or outdated information, resulting in individuals being wrongfully denied housing.
JWB, which uses SafeRent, a tenant-screening company, as part of its screening process, is accused of automatically rejecting applicants if they have had an eviction filing, without considering the legitimacy of the filing. The lawsuit argues that this blanket policy is inherently discriminatory and perpetuates age-old patterns of housing discrimination. The plaintiffs in the case have shared their own experiences, which include false data being held against them due to erroneous tenant-screening algorithms.
In addition to the alleged discrimination, the lawsuit also highlights the concentrated geographical location of JWB’s properties. The majority of JWB-owned or -managed rental properties are located in areas of Duval County with a high percentage of Black residents. This further exacerbates the racial impact of the company’s screening policies.
As the integration of technology into the housing market continues to evolve, it is essential to address the potential biases and discriminatory impacts of these algorithms. This lawsuit serves as a reminder of the importance of fair and equitable housing practices, especially in the face of rapidly advancing technology.
– The Tributary