For Immediate Release - February 16, 2011

Metro-Boston Property Owner Sued for Housing Discrimination by AG Coakley's Office

BOSTON - A Metro-Boston property owner has been sued for violating state anti-discrimination, lead paint, consumer protection, and housing laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office announced today.

The complaint, filed this week, in Suffolk Superior Court against Keith L. Miller of Newton, alleges that Miller-who owns and manages at least 24 residential rental units in Chelsea, Newton, Arlington, and Brighton-engaged in a variety of discriminatory and retaliatory practices against tenants with young children in order to avoid his obligation to comply with state lead paint laws.

"Tenants with young children have a right to housing that is free of lead paint hazards, and landlords have a responsibility to provide safe housing under state law. Massachusetts law prohibits landlords from evicting or otherwise discriminating against tenants because they have children," said AG Coakley. "We allege that Mr. Miller discriminated against his tenants, put their health and well-being at risk, and unlawfully pursued evictions against them."

According to the complaint, Miller evicted or threatened to evict tenants with young children, rented apartments containing lead paint to tenants with young children, failed to abate lead hazards in those apartments, failed to provide proper notice of lead hazards to his tenants, and made misrepresentations regarding the presence of lead paint in his apartments. The complaint further alleges that Miller retaliated against tenants when they reported him for violations of the law.

The Attorney General's Office filed the complaint after the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ("MCAD") found probable cause, in September 2010, that Miller had discriminated against a tenant in Newton. An investigation by the Attorney General's Office revealed at least two other tenants in Newton and Chelsea against whom Miller allegedly discriminated and retaliated. Under state law, the Attorney General's Office is responsible for enforcing fair housing laws and prosecuting housing discrimination cases following probable cause determinations by MCAD. The Attorney General's Office is seeking injunctive relief and damages for the victims as a result of Miller's 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 Joanna Lydgate of AG Coakley's Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Kristen Metzger of the Investigations Division.