Western Massachusetts Landlords Agree to Pay $23,000 to Resolve Housing Discrimination Claims, Credit Reporting Violations
Settlement Provides Victim with Restitution and Future Rental Opportunity; Requires Landlords to Implement New Credit Screening Policy
GREENFIELD – Two Western Massachusetts property owners have agreed to pay $23,000 to resolve allegations that they discriminated against a 59-year-old man due to his mental disability and receipt of rental assistance, and failed to provide notice to prospective tenants after denying rental applications because of poor credit, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
According to the complaint, filed with the consent judgment in Franklin Superior Court, Adam Zaykoski and Jessalyn Zaykoski, of Gill, allegedly refused to rent to a prospective tenant because of his disability, and because he received a rental assistance subsidy from the Mental Health Association (MHA). In addition, the Zaykoskis allegedly violated consumer protection laws by failing to provide the prospective tenant, as well as other applicants, with an “adverse action notice” that would have alerted them to the fact that their rental applications were denied because of poor credit histories.
“Equal and fair access to housing is a right of all residents of the Commonwealth,” AG Coakley said. “Massachusetts residents must be provided with proper notice about the use of their credit histories in housing decisions so that they can make sure that landlords base their decisions on reports that are accurate.”
The MHA is an organization that provides residential and support services to enhance the quality of life for individuals challenged with mental impairments. As part of the MHA rental assistance program, MHA signs the lease on behalf of the subsidy recipient who in return pays a reduced rental payment each month to the MHA.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, the Zaykoskis, who own and manage a four-unit rental in Gill, will pay $16,000 to the prospective tenant, and provide him with notice the first time any one-bedroom or studio apartment becomes available in their building. The Zaykoskis will also create and implement a credit screening policy that will require them to send adverse action notices to any prospective tenant who is denied an apartment due to credit history, and require them to use an alternative process for determining whether a tenant who receives public assistance has the ability to pay rent. Additionally, the Zaykoskis will pay $5,000 to the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center and $2,000 to the Commonwealth, and at least one of them must attend training on federal and Massachusetts fair housing laws.
Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate against housing applicants because they receive public assistance or because of a disability. It is also a violation of the Consumer Protection Law and the Fair Credit Reporting Act to fail to provide adverse action notices to prospective tenants whose rental applications are denied because of credit histories. Consumers must be provided with notice of negative decisions based on credit histories so that they have the opportunity to correct inaccurate or incorrect information.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Michelle Leung and Ann Lynch of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Richard Steward of the Investigations Division.
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