For Immediate Release - June 04, 2010

Saugus Real Estate Company Sued by AG Coakley for Posting Discriminatory Housing Advertisements on Craigslist

Complaint part of statewide investigation into reports of discriminatory Internet advertising

BOSTON - Saugus based Eastern Property Management Group, Inc. ("Eastern Property") is being sued by Attorney General Martha Coakley for allegedly posting discriminatory rental advertisements on the popular classified advertising website Craigslist.org ("Craigslist"). This latest filing stems from the Attorney General's ongoing statewide investigation into reports of widespread discriminatory Internet advertising in housing. The Attorney General's Office is seeking an order prohibiting Eastern Property from engaging in housing discrimination, requiring fair housing training for its employees, compensatory and punitive damages, civil penalties, and attorney's fees and costs.

"Hiding under the anonymity of the Internet is no longer an option for landlords, property managers or real estate brokers that are trying to thwart housing discriminations laws in Massachusetts," said Attorney General Martha Coakley "Enforcing housing discrimination laws is a priority for this office and real estate professionals will be held accountable when they break the law and discriminate against vulnerable citizens in our community."

According to the complaint, Eastern Property posted 4 advertisements on Craigslist during January and February 2010 that discriminated against families with young children and against recipients of public assistance. The advertisements, all for the same apartment in Chelsea, stated, "the apartment may have lead paint so if you have young children under 6 years old or are on Section 8 this will not work for you." In addition, the complaint alleges that when an Investigator from the Attorney General's Office contacted Eastern Property and posed as a father with a young child, he was steered away from renting the advertised property and told that he would have to sign a release form before he could rent the property.

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. Attorney General Coakley has pledged to continue to monitor Craigslist and to take action against landlords and real estate professionals who violate the law.

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, handicap/disability or because the person is a recipient of public assistance. Under the Massachusetts lead paint law, it is illegal to refuse to rent to a prospective tenant with young children due to the possible presence of lead paint in the rental unit. These laws also prohibit discrimination in advertising.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Patricio Rossi and Paralegal Kimberly Strovink, both of Attorney General Coakley's Civil Rights Division.

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