For Immediate Release - April 01, 2010

Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Reaches Settlement with Massachusetts Real Estate Company That Allegedly Discriminated Against Fair Housing Testers

BOSTON - Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office entered into a settlement with a Massachusetts real estate company, resolving allegations that the company refused to rent to fair housing testers who represented that they were looking for apartments for themselves and their young children. The Assurance of Discontinuance filed in Suffolk Superior Court, against RE/MAX Landmark and its former agent James Harrison, orders the company to pay $10,000 to the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston and to adopt and implement a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy. The Assurance of Discontinuance also bars RE/MAX Landmark and Harrison from discriminating in the future.

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

According to the complaint referred to the Attorney General's Office, on multiple occasions between April and July of 2008, RE/MAX's former agent, James Harrison, who worked in the Dorchester office, refused to show rental units to fair housing testers who claimed to have young children. Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate against renters because of their familial status or because they have young children whose presence would require landlords to abate lead paint hazards.

In addition to the $10,000 payment to the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, the settlement also requires RE/MAX Landmark to train its personnel about the fair housing laws and to include in its advertisements that it is an Equal Housing Opportunity broker.

As an advocate for victims' 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 and settlements in 85 housing discrimination cases brought against landlords, property managers, and/or real estate companies.

This matter was handled by Brian Boyle, an Attorney in Attorney General Coakley's Civil Rights Division.