Coakley announces settlements

Bryan Cohen May 2, 2011, 2:24am


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Friday that she has reached settlements with a real estate company, an apartment owner and the former operator of a motor vehicle inspection station.

The Centre Realty Group agreed to pay $10,000 to a prospective tenant who was allegedly unfairly discriminated against after the company found out the prospective tenant received public housing and had small children, the latter of which would require the owner to eliminate lead hazards.

In addition, the company will pay $1,500 to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and $1,000 to the commonwealth as part of an assurance of discontinuance. Employees at Centre Realty Group will also receive fair housing training, abide by state and federal housing and anti-discrimination laws, and notify the Civil Rights Division of housing discrimination complaints for the next two years.

"The need for rental or transitional housing assistance is particularly great for families facing job losses and relocation," Coakley said. "Landlords and real estate professionals in Massachusetts must understand that it is illegal to refuse to rent to persons receiving housing assistance or individuals with young children.

"Massachusetts is facing critical housing needs and compliance with the law is an important obligation as all residents must be treated fairly."

As part of another settlement, Mary Anna Cosenti, the owner of a four-unit residential apartment building in West Springfield, Mass., will pay $7,000 to a prospective tenant who was allegedly discriminated against for having a section eight housing voucher.

A complaint alleged that Cosenti refused to rent to the prospective tenant and was not willing to negotiate with her. It is illegal to discriminate against an individual or family seeking housing because of a person's race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap/disability. The laws also make it illegal to discriminate in advertising.

Coakley also announced on Friday that a settlement had been reached with Vrej Askanian, the former owner and operator of Elie's Sunoco on Main Street in Worcester, Mass.

Askanian allegedly conducted at least 52 fraudulent inspections at Elie's Sunoco using a process called "clean scanning." During clean scanning, an on-board diagnostic test is faked and then issues a passing inspection to another vehicle using results from a previous test.

As a result of the settlement, the Vrej Askanian's inspection license will be suspended for 90 days. The judgment also provides for a $52,000 penalty. Askanian will be allowed to pay a reduced amount, provided he complies with the order and does not further violate the law.

"The state's Enhanced Emissions and Safety Testing Program is an important tool in our fight against air pollution," Coakley said. "We will continue to vigorously pursue enforcement against those who try to circumvent the state's efforts to protect the public health and the environment from excessive automobile emissions."

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