Landlord Ordered to Remove Lead Paint and End Discriminatory, Threatening Conduct
AG’s Office Obtains Court Order Against Landlord Alleged To Have Threatened Tenant About Immigration Status, Evicted Others That Complained About Sanitary Conditions
BOSTON – A Boston area landlord has been ordered to cease violating state housing laws after allegedly threatening tenants who complained about unsanitary and unsafe conditions, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. Keith L. Miller of Newton allegedly threatened one tenant over their immigration status and others after they complained about property conditions.
The preliminary injunction was issued last week by Suffolk Superior Court in a pending housing discrimination case against Miller who owns 24 units in Chelsea, Newton, Boston and Arlington. The court order requires Miller to remove lead paint hazards from his units, to refrain from discriminating against tenants who have young children and to stop retaliating against his tenants for complaining about unsafe conditions.
“We want to ensure that tenants have access to safe housing and are not threatened or evicted when they complain about living conditions,” AG Coakley said. “This case is of particular importance because the safety of young children is at risk and the landlord has been uncooperative. We allege that this landlord engaged in a pervasive pattern of retaliatory and coercive conduct directed at tenants who raised concerns about unsafe conditions.”
The AG’s Office filed a lawsuit against Miller in February 2011 alleging numerous violations relating to three former tenants. According to the lawsuit, two tenants were evicted shortly after giving birth because their apartments were not deleaded and the third was evicted after requesting a lead paint inspection by the Department of Public Health (“DPH”), which ultimately found violations in the unit. State law requires landlords to abate lead paint hazards in apartments where children under the age of six reside.
Since it was first filed, the AG’s case has expanded significantly based on information obtained through further investigation. According to the amended complaint filed last month, Miller evicted or threatened to evict tenants with young children, rented apartments containing lead paint to tenants with young children, failed to remove 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. In one instance, Miller allegedly attempted to force a tenant to pay for the lead paint abatement required by DPH.
It is also alleged that Miller refused to repair unsafe and unsanitary conditions, that he used threats, intimidation, and coercion to interfere with the rights of his tenants, and that he retaliated against tenants when they reported suspected violations of the law to city and state officials. Among other things, after several tenants requested health code inspections, Miller allegedly made inquiries and threatening comments about one tenant’s immigration status and threatened other tenants with the loss of their housing vouchers.
The preliminary injunction orders Miller to take several steps to ensure ongoing compliance with the law. Among other things, the order mandates that he:
- Notify the AG’s Office of any eviction action he initiates against a tenant;
- Provide to the AG’s Office information about all prospective tenants who apply for available rental units;
- Consent to lead paint inspections of units with children under six currently residing in them; and
- Refrain from using threats, intimidation, or coercion to interfere with or attempt to interfere with the rights of his tenants.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Jonathan Miller and Omar Gonzalez-Pagan of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Kristen Metzger of the Investigations Division.