- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Reaches $600,000 Settlement With Real Estate Company Over Allegations of Racial and Income Based Discrimination
BOSTON — A major property management company has agreed to pay $600,000, update its fair housing and leasing policies, and train its employees to settle allegations that the company systematically discriminated against applicants and tenants of a Malden apartment complex based on their race and whether they qualified for public assistance vouchers, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The assurance of discontinuance, filed March 7 in Suffolk Superior Court, settles allegations that Metropolitan Properties of America, Inc. (MPA) and its subsidiary MPA Granada Highlands, LLC (MPA Granada) violated fair housing, civil rights, and consumer protection laws through discriminatory leasing policies and practices in an effort to limit rentals at the Granada Highlands apartment complex – recently renamed Altitude Apartments – to minority and low-income tenants.
“Access to safe, affordable housing is critical to ensuring economic security for all residents of Massachusetts and their families,” AG Healey said. “Today’s settlement demonstrates my office’s commitment to taking action against those who engage in discriminatory conduct that creates unfair barriers to housing.”
“Unlawful discrimination is a significant barrier to housing opportunity for families seeking safe and affordable homes,” said Barbara Chandler, Senior Advisor on Civil Rights and Fair Housing at Metro Housing|Boston. “We are appreciative of the efforts of the AG in confronting this blatant racial and income-based discrimination. This settlement sends an important message to all property owners and is an important reminder to tenants to know their rights. We work diligently with the 4,300 property owners that rent to our families with rental vouchers to ensure they adhere to the principal of equal opportunity and access to housing for all.”
Altitude Apartments is a 919-unit apartment complex located in Malden. The AG’s Office alleges that the defendants carried out these coordinated discriminatory practices as part of an attempt to transform the property into a what they viewed as a “premier gated apartment community” and ensure it was filled with tenants they deemed “fit the image.”
The AG’s Office alleges that the defendants directed their employees to use a variety of discriminatory methods to deter minority and low-income tenants, including treating them with hostility and disrespect and providing them with false and misleading information about the availability and pricing of apartments. The defendants also allegedly subjected tenants and applicants they deemed the “wrong type” to unfair and burdensome leasing procedures that were not applied to white applicants and tenants, including requesting extra proof of employment and documents like passports, visas and social security cards from tenants based on their actual or perceived national origin. The AG’s Office further alleges that the defendants refused to rent to applicants and threatened to evict current tenants who could not comply with the requirements or questioned the policies.
The AG’s Office also alleges that MPA’s conduct violated a 2015 assurance of discontinuance the company reached with the AG’s Office that barred it from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income.
Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to refuse to rent to, withhold housing accommodations from, or otherwise discriminate against a person based on their race, color, national origin, ancestry, or receipt of housing subsidies. It is also illegal for a landlord to make discriminatory statements or to provide applicants false or misleading information about the availability and pricing of apartments because of a discriminatory preference against the applicant. The AG’s Office also alleges that the defendants’ actions constitute unfair and deceptive business practices in violation of the state’s consumer protection law.
Under the terms of the assurance of discontinuance, the parties will pay a total of $600,000, with $100,000 suspended for three years pending compliance with the agreement. The businesses are also required under the settlement to update their housing and leasing policies and submit them to the AG’s Office for review and approval. Once approved, the policies will be provided to all employees annually and the housing policy will be available to all tenants. In addition, all employees at Altitude Apartments are required under the settlement to complete an annual training on fair housing laws.
Since AG Healey took office in January 2015, the Office has resolved dozens of fair housing matters and recovered more than $1 million in restitution, penalties, and other relief for Massachusetts residents in fair housing matters.Last year, AG Healey’s Office issued an advisory reminding landlords and all other housing providers that all current and prospective Massachusetts tenants have a right under federal and state laws to be free from discrimination.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Jon Burke of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division and Genevieve Nadeau, State Enforcement Counsel, with assistance from Investigator Ciara Tran, of AG Healey’s Civil Investigations Division.