For Immediate Release - April 01, 2010

Attorney General Martha Coakley Obtains Consent Judgment Against Landlord for Alleged Posting of Discriminatory Housing Advertisement on Craigslist

Judgment part of statewide investigation into reports of discriminatory Internet advertising

SALEM - Attorney General Martha Coakley obtained a consent judgment against Alexander Cohen, a Revere landlord, resolving allegations that he made discriminatory statements in rental advertisements posted on the popular classified advertising website ("Craigslist"). The judgment, signed yesterday by Essex Superior Court Judge Christine M. Roach, provides a broad range of relief and preventive measures to ensure Cohen's future compliance with state and federal fair housing laws. This judgment is the result of a continuing statewide investigation by the Attorney General's Office into reports of widespread discriminatory housing advertisements on the Internet.

"As more families face tough financial times and have no choice but to rent, landlords and real estate professionals must recognize that the rental market is a regulated industry and compliance with our anti-discrimination laws is an important obligation," said Attorney General Coakley. "While we hope that this enforcement initiative will have a deterrent effect, our office will continue to monitor Craigslist and take action against persons and entities that violate the law."

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. According to the complaint filed in Essex Superior Court, Cohen placed an advertisement on Craigslist in April 2009, listing a unit for rent in Revere but stating "no Section 8." The Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits real estate companies, agents, landlords and others involved in property rentals, from discriminating against people who use state or federal housing subsidies to pay for all or a portion of their rent.

The consent judgment requires Cohen to attend trainings on state and federal fair housing laws and prohibits him from placing discriminatory advertisements or otherwise discriminating against any person who seeks or applies for housing because they are a member of a protected class. The consent judgment also requires Cohen to advertise any future rental property as "Equal Housing Opportunity" properties. In an effort to increase awareness of this important issue, Cohen is required to place postings on Craigslist informing other Craigslist users that the Attorney General monitors Craigslist for discriminatory advertising and that it is against Massachusetts law to state a discriminatory preference against recipients of housing assistance subsidies. Cohen must also pay $750 to Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc., a legal services organization that provides assistance to poor and low-income persons in housing and a variety of areas.

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. Since taking office in January 2007, Attorney General Coakley's office has obtained judgments in 86 housing discrimination cases brought against landlords, property managers, and/or real estate companies.

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