AG Coakley Discusses Office’s Efforts to Combat Housing Discrimination
Since 2007, AG’s Civil Rights Division Has Successfully Handled More Than 125 Cases Resulting in Approximately $2.5 Million in Relief
BOSTON – As part of a continued focus on combating housing discrimination in the Commonwealth, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that more than 125 housing discrimination matters handled by the AG’s Civil Rights Division since 2007 have resulted in more than $2.5 million in relief for Massachusetts residents. AG Coakley made the announcement during remarks at a luncheon today hosted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Suffolk University School of Law to celebrate the law school’s opening of a housing discrimination clinic and to discuss fair housing issues in the Commonwealth.
“These housing discrimination cases are some of our most important work we do in the office, because they involve the lives of real people affected in profound ways by unlawful bias and unfairness,” AG Coakley said. “These cases clearly demonstrate that, in both good times and bad, too many people face barriers when finding a place to live.”
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, sexual orientation, gender identity, receipt of rental/income assistance, or handicap/disability. These laws also prohibit discrimination in advertising and in public housing, and cover actions taken by realtors, sellers, landlords, mortgage lenders and brokers.
Some examples of cases recently handled by the AG’s Office:
According to allegations an assurance of discontinuance filed in Suffolk Superior Court today, Paul Duva and James Karon refused to rent an apartment in Somerville to a prospective tenant upon discovering that she was the recipient of a Massachusetts Alternative Housing Voucher. Duva and Karon directed their real estate agent to reject the prospective tenant’s application, and subsequently rented the same unit at a lower monthly rent, to a different tenant who received no rental assistance.
The settlement includes a broad range of relief and preventive measures to ensure the landlords’ future compliance with state and federal fair housing laws as well as a payment of $10,000 in damages to the victim. The assurance further requires Duva and Karon to abide by federal and state fair housing and anti-discrimination laws, complete fair housing training, and notify the Civil Rights Division of any housing discrimination complaints for the next three years.
In April 2011, a Watertown real estate company and one of its employees resolved allegations that they unfairly discriminated against a prospective tenant and her family by refusing to show them available apartments because of the units’ lead paint status. Under the terms of the assurance of discontinuance, Centre Realty Group paid $10,000 to the prospective tenant, $1,500 to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and $1,000 to the Commonwealth. The assurance of discontinuance further requires Centre Realty Group and its employees to abide by federal and state fair housing and anti-discrimination laws, receive fair housing training, and notify the Civil Rights Division of any housing discrimination complaints.