For Immediate Release - June 10, 2011

AG Coakley Obtains Multiple Settlements Resolving Allegations of Housing Discrimination

BOSTON - A settlement has been reached with a Lynn real estate company and others for allegedly violating state anti-discrimination and lead paint laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. A consent judgment has also been obtained against a Chelmsford real estate company for allegedly violating state anti-discrimination laws. The settlement and judgment require combined payments of $6,250 to the victims, the Commonwealth, and Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, and provide a broad range of preventative measures to ensure future compliance with the law.

Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate against housing applicants because they have young children or because their presence may trigger an owner's duty to eliminate lead hazards that pose serious health risks.

"Massachusetts law prohibits landlords and real estate professionals from refusing to rent to prospective tenants because they have children," AG Coakley said. "Massachusetts is facing critical housing needs and compliance with the law is an important obligation as all residents must be treated fairly."

The cases are the result of referrals made by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to the Attorney General's Office. 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.

Top Real Estate
A Lynn real estate company, its agent, and property landlords resolved allegations that they violated state anti-discrimination and lead paint laws by refusing to show or rent an apartment to a pregnant woman.

Under the terms of the of the Assurance of Discontinuance, Top Real Estate & Development, Inc. ("Top Real Estate"), real estate agent Phyllis Ricci, and property owners John Paine and Margaret Anne Paine, are required to abide by Massachusetts and federal fair housing and anti-discrimination laws, report to the Attorney General's Office if any further complaints are lodged against them, and make a monetary payment of $2,000 to the Commonwealth and the alleged victim. They will also attend anti-discrimination and fair housing training to ensure that they conduct business in a way that comports with the law and treats all prospective and current buyers, sellers, and tenants fairly.

The Attorney General's Office alleged that the defendants discriminated against the potential tenant in May 2010 when she was not allowed to view an advertised apartment. The woman was eight months pregnant at the time, and would have resided in the apartment with a young child whose presence would have required the owners to comply with state lead paint laws.

Prime Properties, Inc.
A Chelmsford real estate company has entered into a settlement resolving allegations that it unfairly discriminated against a prospective tenant with children.

The Final Judgment by Consent, entered June 2 in Middlesex Superior Court, requires Prime Properties, Inc. ("Prime Properties"), its employees, and agents to abide by federal and state fair housing and anti-discrimination laws; receive fair housing training; and notify the Attorney General's Office of any housing discrimination complaints for the next three years. In addition, Prime Properties will pay $1,000 to the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, $750 to the victim, and $2,500 to the Commonwealth.

According to the complaint, filed in August 2010, the prospective tenant responded to an advertisement for a rental unit owned by Prime Properties. When she informed a company employee that she had a daughter, she was told that the unit was not appropriate for her. Prime Properties employees subsequently refused to rent units to testers from the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston who posed as prospective tenants with children. The victim filed a complaint with the MCAD, which issued a probable cause finding in June 2010.

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.

These matters were handled by Assistant Attorneys General Elisha Jackson and Patricio Rossi of AG Coakley's Civil Rights Division with the assistance of Dante Annicelli of AG Coakley's Investigations Division and the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston.