A reader of my last post asked a good question: can a publisher really be held responsible for the contents of an advertisement for housing? In a word – yes. In addition to the owner of the property who submitted the ad in question, liability may also attach to an advertising agency, a real estate developer, a sales firm, and/or anyone else involved in developing or placing an ad.

If a publisher has a real estate section in a newspaper or magazine, HUD regulations provide that all publishers should print at the start of their real estate advertising a notice which provides that the newspaper (or magazine) accepts ads that are subject to the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), a law which makes it unlawful to advertise “any preference, limitation or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or nation origin.” The notice should also include that the newspaper “will not knowingly accept any advertising for real estate which is in violation of the FHA and that all homes/apartments advertised are available on an equal housing opportunity basis.

What this means is that publishers should: (a) screen real estate advertising for discriminatory content; (b) enact a real estate nondiscrimination policy; and (c) train employees to respect and follow the law.