For Immediate Release - December 23, 2010

AG Coakley Sues Melrose Realty Trust And Manager For Posting Discriminatory Housing Ad On Craigslist

BOSTON - A Melrose-based realty trust and its manager violated Massachusetts law by allegedly posting a discriminatory rental advertisement on the popular classified advertising website ("Craigslist"), according to a lawsuit filed by AG Coakley's Office. The complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court against Mt. V.M. Realty Trust ("Mt. V.M.") and Nicholas Keramaris, alleges that they violated state anti-discrimination, lead paint, and consumer protection laws by placing an advertisement on Craigslist which referred to the lead status of an apartment and refused to rent it to families with young children.

"Protecting the civil rights of all residents and visitors to Massachusetts is a priority of our office," AG Coakley said. "Our office will continue to monitor Craigslist and other publications to ensure that the real estate professionals and landlords who violate anti-discrimination laws are held accountable and that all individuals have equal access to housing opportunities."

According to the complaint, Keramaris, on behalf of Mt. V.M., posted an advertisement on Craigslist in June 2010 that discriminated against families with young children. The advertisement, for an apartment building in Melrose that Keramaris managed, stated that the unit could not be rented to families with children under six years old as it was not deleaded. Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to refuse to rent or steer families away from rental properties because they have young children whose presence triggers an owner's duty to eliminate lead hazards that pose serious health risks.

The Attorney General's Office filed the complaint after the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ("MCAD") found probable cause that Keramaris discriminated against a family. Under state law, the Attorney General's Office is responsible for enforcing fair housing laws and prosecuting housing discrimination cases following probable cause determinations from MCAD. The Attorney General's Office is seeking an order prohibiting Mt. V.M. and Keramaris from engaging in housing discrimination, requiring Keramaris and any others who managed the property to attend fair housing training, and for compensatory and punitive damages, civil penalties, and attorney's fees and costs.

On October 28, 2009, the Attorney General's Office reached 20 settlements and filed six complaints against landlords and real estate agents across the Commonwealth accused of violating state anti-discrimination laws on Craigslist as part of an ongoing statewide investigation into reports of widespread discriminatory Internet advertising in housing. Attorney General Coakley's Office will continue to monitor Craigslist for discriminatory advertising in housing. Since taking office in January 2007, Attorney General Coakley's office has obtained judgments in 91 housing discrimination cases brought against landlords, property managers, and/or real estate companies.

As an advocate for victim and consumer rights, Attorney General Coakley's office works to ensure that the civil rights and liberties of visitors and residents of the Commonwealth are preserved and protected. Under federal and state fair housing laws, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual or a family seeking housing because of a person's race, color, religion, sex, familial status (e.g. children or marital status), national origin, or handicap/disability. These laws also prohibit discrimination in advertising, public housing, and actions taken by realtors, landlords, mortgage lenders and brokers.

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