AG Healey Obtains Multiple Settlements in Fair Housing Cases on Behalf of Tenants With Disabilities
Properties Located in Worcester, Roxbury, and East Wareham; Settlements Secure $155,000 in Restitution for Tenants, Penalties and Funding for Educational Programs
BOSTON – Multiple individuals will receive monetary damages and several property owners and management companies across the state will strengthen their anti-discrimination and fair housing policies after three separate settlements were reached over claims of disability-based housing discrimination against tenants, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The AG’s Office finalized settlements in three separate cases resolving allegations that the defendants, mainly property owners and managers, discriminated against tenants by failing to reasonably accommodate their disabilities.
“When landlords refuse to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, it compromises the health, safety and quality of life of our residents,” said AG Healey. “My office enforces our fair housing laws to ensure that people are treated with dignity and can access housing in our state.”
Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability in the rental of housing accommodations. This prohibition includes a landlord or managing agent’s refusal to make a reasonable accommodation or modification if it is necessary to afford the person with a disability full enjoyment of the premises, as well as the failure to engage in a meaningful interactive process in response to requests for accommodations or modifications.
Settlements were reached with the following entities:
The Related Companies, Inc., Related Washington Heights, LLC, and Related Management Company, L.P.
The Related Companies, Inc., Related Washington Heights, LLC, and Related Management Company, L.P., own or manage Washington Heights, a large housing complex in Worcester.
According to a complaint filed by the AG’s Office, these defendants engaged in discriminatory and unlawful housing practices against a tenant on the basis of her disabilities by failing to provide reasonable accommodations and modifications. The tenant began using a wheelchair after suffering a stroke during childbirth.
In January 2013, the tenant and her husband requested an accessible unit with a wheelchair ramp but allegedly were told the waitlist was years long and they would be better off moving elsewhere. At that time, they began requesting reasonable modifications to make their home accessible, the majority of which allegedly were met with undue delays by the defendants and some requests were denied altogether, including making the sidewalk ramp to the entryway of the apartment safe and usable for the tenant.
The AG’s Office alleged that the tenant’s recovery was adversely impacted by the lack of accessibility. She was unable to leave her home on her own and, at times, unable to even move from one room to another. Her husband’s health was also adversely impacted by the delays after he injured his back while caring for his wife.
Pursuant to a consent judgement filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the defendants have agreed to pay a total of $75,000, including $60,000 in damages to the tenant and $15,000 to the Commonwealth. The companies will also be required to update their antidiscrimination policies, pay for training on fair housing laws for all employees and for educational programs for residents regarding their rights as tenants and resources available for tenants with disabilities. As a condition of the consent judgment, the defendants will also work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on an assessment of the property’s compliance with applicable federal law.
Mission Park LP, Roxbury Tenants Association of Harvard (RTH), Inc., and Trinity Management, LLC
Mission Park and RTH together own residential apartments located in several buildings in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, including the Mission Park properties, which are managed by Trinity.
According a complaint filed by the AG’s Office, these three entities engaged in a pattern of discriminatory and unlawful housing practices against a tenant on the basis of her disability by repeatedly failing to provide reasonable accommodations and modifications to her residence. The tenant has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.
The tenant’s mother repeatedly expressed her need for a wheelchair-accessible unit, including an accessible bathroom, doorways, kitchen counters, and entrances. The tenant also asked for permission to keep an emotional support dog. In each instance, the defendants allegedly failed to engage in an interactive dialogue, required burdensome and unnecessary paperwork, and unreasonably delayed or refused to provide the reasonable modifications or accommodations.
Pursuant to a consent judgment filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the defendants have agreed to pay a total of $60,000, including $40,000 in damages to the complainants, $15,000 to the Commonwealth, and $5,000 to be used for education programs for tenants with disabilities. The defendants are also required institute comprehensive anti-discrimination policies and provide fair housing training for staff.
New Depot Crossing, LP, Hallkeen Management, Inc., and Dianne Callahan
New Depot and Housing Solutions own a rental property located in East Wareham that consists of approximately 32 affordable housing units managed by HallKeen through property manager Dianne Callahan.
According to the AG’s complaint, these defendants engaged in discriminatory and unlawful housing practices against a tenant on the basis of his disability by failing to provide reasonable accommodations. The tenant is blind and suffers from PTSD and relies on assistance animals.
The complaint alleged that the defendants ultimately rushed to court to seek an order to remove the tenant’s assistance animals rather than engage in an interactive dialogue as required by law, and therefore effectively denied the tenant’s request for a reasonable accommodation.
Pursuant to a consent judgement filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the defendants have agreed to pay a total of $20,000, including $15,000 in damages to the tenant and $5,000 to the Commonwealth. An additional $5,000 will be suspended pending the defendants’ compliance with the terms of the settlement, which also require the defendants to institute a comprehensive fair housing and anti-discrimination policies and train staff on fair housing rights.
These settlements continue the AG’s efforts to protect the civil rights of all Massachusetts residents, including residents with disabilities.
If you believe you have been a victim of housing discrimination you may contact the AG’s Civil Rights Division at 617-963-2917 or file a civil rights complaint. In addition, you may file with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, (617) 994-6000.
These cases were handled by staff from the AG’s Civil Rights Division including Assistant Attorneys General D’Andre Fernandez, Kimberly Strovink, and Division Chief Genevieve Nadeau, with assistance from Colleen Frost of AG Healey’s Civil Investigations Division.