Boston Area Landlord to Pay $75,000 and Delead Units to Resolve Fair Housing Lawsuit
Largest Fair Housing Settlement with Property Owner to Date Under AG Coakley
BOSTON – A Boston area property owner has agreed to pay $75,000 and delead his rental units, resolving allegations that he engaged in a pattern of unlawful and retaliatory practices against tenants with young children in order to avoid his obligation to comply with state lead paint laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday, resolves a fair housing complaint filed in February 2011 against Keith L. Miller, of Newton, who at the time owned and managed at least 24 residential rental units in Chelsea, Newton, Arlington, and Brighton. This is the largest fair housing settlement with a landlord that has been reached under AG Coakley.
“In a rental market as large as Greater Boston’s, it’s important that tenants know their rights and that landlords follow the law,” AG Coakley said. “This settlement demonstrates that there are serious consequences for landlords who would sacrifice public safety to save a few dollars.”
In February 2012, the AG’s Office expanded its case against Miller, after learning of additional claims by tenants of the landlord’s bullying tactics and discriminatory behavior. The amended complaint alleged that 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, made misrepresentations regarding the presence of lead paint in his apartments, and refused to repair unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
More recently, the AG’s Office obtained summary judgment for claims that Miller failed to abate lead hazards, failed to provide proper notice of lead hazards, and that he illegally attempted to charge tenants for water use. The court held that those violations constituted violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act as well.
The consent judgment, together with an agreement to dismiss outstanding claims against Miller, extends the preliminary injunction obtained from the court in March 2012 for five additional years, requiring Miller to remove lead paint hazards from his units, if children under six are residing in them, to refrain from discriminating against tenants, and to not retaliate against his tenants for complaining about unsafe conditions, including by giving the AG’s Office notice of any eviction proceedings he initiates against his tenants.
In addition to the payment and the extension of the preliminary injunction, the settlement requires that Miller:
Delead a three-unit rental property in Arlington, upon the vacancy of the current tenants;
- Obtain certificates of habitability prior to the commencement of any new tenancies;
- Advise the Attorney General’s Office of newly-acquired properties and the lead status of those units;
- Direct all employees engaged in the rental or management of his properties to receive fair housing training; and
- Provide the Attorney General’s Office with notice of claims of discrimination made against him.
Under federal and state fair housing laws, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual or 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 landlords, realtors, mortgage lenders and brokers. Massachusetts laws also require disclosure of lead paint history, abatement of lead paint hazards in units in which children under the age of six are present, and prohibit landlords from retaliating against tenants who assert their rights under the lead paint laws.
This matter was handled by Jonathan Miller, Chief of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, and Joshua Jacobson, an Assistant Attorney General in AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division.