Coakley takes action against landlord

Bryan Cohen Mar. 14, 2012, 1:08pm


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced an order on Tuesday against a Boston-area landlord who allegedly violated state housing laws by threatening tenants who complained about unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

Keith L. Miller allegedly threatened one tenant over immigration status and others who complained about conditions of the property. A preliminary injunction against Miller was issued last week in Suffolk Superior Court in a pending housing discrimination case against Miller.

Miller owns 24 units in Chelsea, Arlington, Newton and Boston. The order requires Miller to remove lead paint hazards from his units, refrain from engaging in discrimination against tenants with young children and stop retaliating against tenants for complaining about unsafe conditions.

"We want to ensure that tenants have access to safe housing and are not threatened or evicted when they complain about living conditions," Coakley said.

"This case is of particular importance because the safety of young children is at risk and the landlord has been uncooperative. We allege that this landlord engaged in a pervasive pattern of retaliatory and coercive conduct directed at tenants who raised concerns about unsafe conditions."

Coakley's office filed a lawsuit against Miller in February 2011 alleging multiple violations related to three former tenants. Two tenants were allegedly evicted after giving birth because their apartments were not deleaded. A third was evicted after requesting a lead paint inspection by the Department of Public Health, which found violations in the unit. State law requires that landlords abate lead paint hazards in apartments where children under six years of age reside.

Coakley's case expanded extensively since she first filed the lawsuit. Miller allegedly evicted or threatened to evict tenants with young children, rented apartments containing lead paint to tenants with young children, failed to remove lead hazards in apartments, failed to give proper notice of lead hazards to his tenants and made misrepresentations regarding the presence of lead paint in his apartments.

The preliminary injunction requires Miller to notify Coakley's office of any eviction action he initiates against a tenant, provide Coakley's office with information about all prospective tenants who apply for available rental units, consent to lead paint inspections of units that have children under the age of six currently residing in them, and refrain from using coercion, intimidation and threats to interfere with or attempt to interfere with the rights of his tenants.

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