For Immediate Release - June 13, 2014

Western Massachusetts Landlord Resolves Alleged Lead Paint Violations and Discrimination Claims

Settlement Requires Property Owner to Pay $6,000 to the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center and Delead Two Rental Units

BOSTON – A Western Massachusetts landlord will pay $6,000 and delead two rental units to resolve allegations that it discriminated against families with children, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The assurance of discontinuance, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that 253 Center Street Properties, Inc. of East Longmeadow refused to rent to families with children because doing so would trigger its obligation to remove lead paint hazards from its rental units. 

“The state’s lead paint law protects children from the damaging effects of lead, which include impaired development, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems,” AG Coakley said. “Our office works to ensure that families with children are able to find lead-safe housing within the Commonwealth.”

According to the settlement, 253 Center Street, which owns and manages rental properties in Agawam, Chicopee, and Springfield, allegedly posted a discriminatory advertisement for one of its Chicopee properties on Craigslist. The advertisement specifically stated that families with young children were not eligible to rent the apartment because the unit had not been deleaded.

Agents for 253 Center Street allegedly also told two separate “testers” from the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center that the company could not rent the apartment to a family with children under the age of six because the unit was not deleaded, and the company was not planning to delead the unit in the near future. 

Under the terms of the assurance of discontinuance, 253 Center Street will pay $6,000 to the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center and delead both units in its Chicopee property within two years. If the company sells or transfers the property before obtaining letters of full deleading compliance, it will be required to pay $20,000 to the Childhood Lead Paint Prevention Program.  An additional payment of $2,500 to the Commonwealth will be suspended pending compliance with the other terms of the Assurance. The settlement also requires all employees of 253 Center Street to attend fair housing training.

Under state law, it is illegal to discriminate against housing applicants because they have children or because renting to particular tenants would require the landlord to abate lead hazards.  Landlords must also fully comply with the lead paint laws, including the removal or covering of lead paint hazards where any child under the age of six resides and providing tenants with all required lead paint disclosures at the inception of their tenancies. 

This matter was handled by Jonathan Miller, Chief of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Scully, also of the Civil Rights Division, and James O’Hara of the Investigations Division. 

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