For Immediate Release - March 14, 2012

AG Coakley Obtains Settlements Resolving Allegations Of Housing Discrimination

BOSTON – Settlements have been obtained against a real estate business in Cambridge and a housing management company in Haverhill for allegedly violating state anti-discrimination and fair housing laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. The settlements include a broad range of relief and preventive measures to ensure future compliance of state and federal fair housing laws and anti-discrimination regulations.

Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate against housing applicants because they are disabled. It is also illegal to refuse to rent or steer families away from rental properties because they have young children whose presence triggers an owner’s duty to eliminate lead hazards that pose serious health risks. The cases are the result of two separate referrals made by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and the Cambridge Human Rights Commission (CHRC) to the AG’s Office.

“It is illegal for landlords or real estate professionals to refuse to rent to people because they are disabled or have young 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.”

Judson House Apartments

            Judson House Apartments in Haverhill and its management company, SHP Management Corporation (SHP), resolved allegations that they unfairly discriminated against a disabled prospective tenant because they refused to accept that she had a disability unless she was in a wheelchair. The Assurance of Discontinuance filed March 5 in Suffolk Superior Court, requires Judson House Apartments to retroactively restore the tenant to the priority waitlist that she was entitled to be on as a person with a disability. The assurance further requires Judson House Apartments and SHP and their employees to abide by federal and state fair housing and anti-discrimination laws, complete fair housing training, and notify the AG’s Civil Rights Division of any housing discrimination complaints for the next three years.  

Skyline Properties    

            Skyline Properties in Cambridge resolved allegations that it discouraged a family with children under the age of six from renting a specific property to avoid obligations to remove lead paint from the apartment. The Consent Judgment, entered by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Bonnie MacLeod, provides a broad range of relief and preventive measures to ensure future compliance with state and federal fair housing laws. The judgment requires Skyline Realty to pay the victims $5,000, have its employees to complete training on state and federal fair housing laws, implement anti-discrimination policies, and notify the Civil Rights Division of any housing discrimination complaints for the next two years.

           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, receipt of rental assistance, or handicap/disability. These laws also prohibit discrimination in advertising, public housing, and actions taken by realtors, landlords, mortgage lenders and brokers.

            Each year, the Attorney General’s Office responds to hundreds of housing discrimination complaints and brings enforcement actions against persons or companies that violate fair housing laws. For that reason, the Attorney General’s Office and the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR) teamed up to host an educational webinar for Massachusetts realtors around housing discrimination law last in October.

These cases were handled by Assistant Attorneys General Erika Rickard and Omar Gonzalez-Pagan of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division.

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