AG Healey Sues Property Owner for Denying Housing to Individual Receiving Rental Assistance
BOSTON – A property owner and manager have been sued by Attorney General Maura Healey for violating state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws when they denied an individual a rental unit on the basis of the source of his income.
The complaint was filed in Suffolk Superior Court against Matteo Gallo, as trustee of Ocean View Nominee Trust (OVNT), and IPM Management, Inc. The AG’s Office alleges that the defendants refused to rent an apartment in Woburn to the individual based on his receipt of assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program and the requirements of the rental assistance program.
“Discrimination against prospective tenants who receive public or housing assistance is against the law,” AG Healey. “These programs help low-income families obtain affordable and safe housing, and landlords cannot use the requirements of these programs as an excuse to refuse to rent.”
Gallo is the sole trustee of OVNT, which owns and manages approximately 31 housing units in three buildings located in Woburn, where the tenant was looking to rent. In addition, OVNT owns and manages several other residential properties, including properties in Boston, Everett and Reading. IPM Management, Inc. is a real estate management, marketing, and consulting company for several residential properties, including the building in Woburn.
According to the AG’s complaint, the tenant, who sought to find housing before a major surgery he was scheduled to undergo in October 2014, applied for an apartment and was told by OVNT that his rental application was approved. He then paid a key deposit. However, rather than going through with an inspection required by the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, which administers the voucher program, the defendants rented the unit to individuals who did not receive Section 8 housing assistance.
Because of the defendants’ actions, the complaint alleges, the tenant was unable to secure alternate housing before his surgery and spent his recovery living in shelters and staying with friends. He found more permanent housing four months later located in a community further from his medical appointments in Boston.
The AG’s Office seeks injunctive relief, compensatory damages, civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to refuse to rent to a prospective tenant because the tenant is a participant in a housing subsidy program, or to avoid any of the requirements of such a program. It is also illegal to make a statement indicating a preference, limitation, or discrimination against a recipient of a Section 8 subsidy.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Kerry Tipper and Brittany Williams of Attorney General Maura Healey’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from James O’Hara of the Civil Investigations Division.