For Immediate Release - September 23, 2011

AG Coakley Sues Owner and Landlord of Cambridge Property for Housing Discrimination

BOSTON - The owner and landlord of a Cambridge apartment building has been sued for violating state anti-discrimination, lead paint, consumer protection, and housing laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The complaint was filed in Suffolk Superior Court against Marina Kaufman of Lexington and Ware Hall Trust. The defendants own and manage at least 50 rental units in Cambridge. According to the complaint, the defendants unlawfully retaliated against tenants with a young child for exercising their rights under the state anti-discrimination and lead paint laws.

"Massachusetts law requires landlords to comply with lead paint laws designed to protect young children from known health hazards," AG Coakley said. "The law also prohibits landlords from retaliating against tenants who exercise their right to file a discrimination complaint. Massachusetts is facing critical housing needs and residents must be treated fairly."

The defendants allegedly engaged in a variety of practices that violated provisions of the Massachusetts housing laws. The complaint alleges that Kaufman and Ware Hall Trust disproportionately increased the monthly rent, refused to accept rental payments, refused to renew the tenants' lease and failed to abate lead hazards in an apartment rented to tenants with a young child. The complaint further alleges that defendant Jeffrey Cardoza, the building superintendant, engaged in a pattern of harassment against the tenants after they filed a housing discrimination complaint with the Cambridge Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

The Attorney General's Office filed the complaint after the CHRC found probable cause that the defendants had unlawfully retaliated against the tenants. 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 CHRC. The Attorney General's Office is seeking injunctive relief and damages for the victims as a result of the defendants' alleged discriminatory and unlawful housing practices.

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 Gabrielle Viator of AG Coakley's Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Nancy Ward of the Investigations Division.

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