For Immediate Release - December 23, 2015

AG Healey Applauds HUD’s Proposed Regulations to Combat Housing Discrimination

Letter to Department of Housing and Urban Development Notes AG’s History of Protecting Rights of Tenants and Families in Massachusetts

BOSTON – Relying on its extensive experience protecting the fair housing rights of residents in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) supporting proposed regulations designed to combat bias-motivated harassment in the housing market. 

The proposed regulations set forth the standards for harassment under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). They also explain that landlords and others providing housing-related services can be directly liable for their failure to take actions to remedy the discriminatory behavior of others, such as employees or other tenants.

The AG’s Office noted in its comment letter to HUD that its own enforcement work highlights that discrimination remains a pervasive problem affecting housing choices for many families. The comments represent part of the continuing efforts of the AG’s Office to combat discrimination in the housing market, including both rental housing and home ownership.

“Tenants should feel safe in their homes and live in a peaceful environment without being harassed because of who they are,” AG Healey said. “Housing discrimination remains a real challenge that limits choice for tenants and we are committed to ensuring that people are treated fairly. I support HUD’s efforts to combat discrimination, including harassment, in the housing market.”

HUD’s proposed rule consists of a number of provisions clarifying harassment and vicarious liability claims under the FHA. The AG’s Office stated its support for various of these provisions, including finding landlords and others providing housing-related services directly liable not only for their own discriminatory behavior but also for their failure to ensure prompt remediation of discrimination once informed of it. According to the AG’s letter, landlords have an obligation to ensure tenants’ rights to quiet enjoyment and generally have the right to take actions against renters and occupants who disturb the quiet enjoyment of others.

The AG’s Office has strong partnerships with many HUD-funded organizations throughout Massachusetts and handles many cases and complaints of housing discrimination each year. Some recent cases have included the following:

  • A settlement filed last week with the owner of a real estate business accused of refusing to lease to prospective tenants who receive rental housing assistance.
  • A settlement entered last week with a landlord over allegations that she discriminated against her tenants in Boston because of their sexual orientation and religion.
  • A settlement entered in October with the landlord of a New Bedford apartment complex for failing to take appropriate action against bias-motivated harassment by two tenants against another.
  • A lawsuit filed in September against a property owner for denying rental housing in Woburn to an individual on the basis of the source of his income.
  • A settlement filed in August with a Springfield landlord over allegations that she failed to timely grant requests for easier building access for a tenant with a disabled son.

AG Healey’s office works to ensure that the civil rights of residents of Massachusetts are protected under state and federal housing laws. Tenants in Massachusetts who feel they have been a victim of housing discrimination should contact the Civil Rights Division at (617) 727-2200 or file a civil rights complaint.