For Immediate Release - July 28, 2011

Melrose Landlord Enters Settlement with AG Coakley for Alleged Discrimination Against Prospective Tenant

BOSTON - A Melrose landlord has entered into a settlement resolving allegations that he refused to rent to a prospective tenant because she participates in the Section 8 housing subsidy program, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The Assurance of Discontinuance, filed yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court against Robert Cook, orders the landlord to pay the victim $2,000, attend training on state and federal fair housing laws, and bars him from discriminating in the future. Cook is subject to a $2,000 civil penalty if he fails to comply with the agreement.

"Housing subsidy programs provide invaluable assistance to thousands of low income tenants in Massachusetts," AG Coakley said. "Landlords in Massachusetts must understand that it is illegal to refuse to rent to persons receiving housing assistance. Compliance with the law is an important obligation."

According to the complaint referred to the Attorney General's Office in March 2011, Cook refused to rent a Melrose apartment to the victim after she disclosed to him that she intended to pay for her rent using a Section 8 federal housing subsidy voucher. Cook denies the allegations. Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate against tenants or persons seeking housing because they receive public assistance or because they wish to pay for all or a portion of their rent using a housing voucher.

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 was handled by Maura Healey, Chief of the AG Coakley's Civil Rights Division.