For Immediate Release - October 15, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley Sues Melrose landlords for Housing Discrimination

WOBURN - Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office filed a housing discrimination complaint against Carl and Karen Fontana, the owners of a two-bedroom rental property in Melrose. The complaint, filed in Middlesex Superior Court, alleges that the Fontanas violated state antidiscrimination laws by refusing to rent to recipients of housing subsidies.

"We are facing critical housing needs in the Commonwealth and the strain on those needing rental or transitional housing assistance is particularly great," said Attorney General Coakley. "Realtors, brokers and landlords in Massachusetts should understand that discrimination against those who hold housing assistance subsidies is illegal and we will seek to hold accountable those who break the law."

According to the complaint, the Fontanas refused to rent the Melrose property to a prospective tenant who held a Section 8 federal housing subsidy and her six-year-old daughter. The complaint further alleges that defendant Karen Fontana told the prospective tenant that she did not want to deal with the Section 8 program. Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate against housing applicants because they receive public assistance.

The Attorney General's Office is seeking an order prohibiting the Fontanas from engaging in housing discrimination, damages, and attorneys' fees and costs.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Gabrielle Viator of Attorney General Coakley's Civil Rights Division.