For Immediate Release - July 30, 2012

Watertown Landlords Settle Allegations of Housing Discrimination

Landlords Accused of Refusing to Rent to Families with Children Agree to Remove Lead Paint from Two Apartments

BOSTON – The owners of two Watertown apartments have settled allegations that they discriminated against families with children in order to avoid their obligation to remove lead paint hazards, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. 

Under state law, it is illegal to discriminate against housing applicants because they have children or because the rental would require the landlord to abate lead hazards. 

“The Commonwealth’s lead paint law protects children from the damaging effects of lead, which include impaired development, learning difficulties, and behavior problems,” AG Coakley said.  “It is imperative that families with children are able to find lead-safe housing in the Commonwealth.”

The consent judgment entered by Judge Paul E. Troy requires Christopher and Elizabeth Molle to attend fair housing training and delead their two rental units in Watertown.  The consent judgment follows a lawsuit filed collectively against these defendants, as well as a Boston-area real estate agency, and two of its agents for discriminating against families with children. 

The Commonwealth’s complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court on April 6, 2012, alleged that, in their efforts to rent a Watertown apartment owned by the defendants, The Gateway Real Estate Group, Inc. (“Gateway”) as well as two of its agents, Jillian Chan and Audrey Flemming, discriminated against families with children under six on at least three separate occasions.  According to the complaint, Gateway, Chan, and/or Flemming refused to show the apartment to a mother of a toddler, rejected a rental application submitted by a couple that was expecting a baby, and falsely informed a mother of a toddler who requested a rental application that the apartment was no longer available.  The complaint further alleges that in each instance Gateway and its agents refused the prospective tenants because the apartment likely contained lead paint and renting to them would have triggered an obligation to abate lead paint hazards.  

The consent judgment resolves allegations against Christopher and Elizabeth Molle.  Litigation against Gateway and its agents is ongoing.  The Attorney General’s Office is seeking damages for the victims, civil penalties and attorneys’ fees.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Ann E. Lynch of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division.

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