Coakley settles discrimination suit against landlords

Bryan Cohen Jul. 30, 2012, 2:48pm


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a settlement on Monday with the owners of two Watertown apartments who allegedly discriminated against families with children to avoid the obligation to remove lead paint hazards.

Under the terms of the consent judgment, Christopher and Elizabeth Molle, the owners of the property, must go to fair housing training and de-lead their two Watertown rental units.

The settlement follows a lawsuit filed collectively against the Molles, their Boston-area The Gateway Real Estate Group Inc. real estate agency and two of its agents for discriminating against families with children. Litigation against Gateway and the two agents is ongoing.

It is illegal to discriminate against housing applications in the state of Massachusetts because the applicants have children or because the rental would cause a need to abate lead hazards.

"The commonwealth's lead paint law protects children from the damaging effects of lead, which include impaired development, learning difficulties, and behavior problems," Coakley said. "It is imperative that families with children are able to find lead-safe housing in the commonwealth."

Coakley's office filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court on April 6 that alleged that the Gateway Real Estate Group Inc. and two of its agents, Audrey Flemming and Jillian Chan, discriminated against families with children under the age of six on at least three occasions. Gateway, Flemming and/or Chan allegedly rejected a rental application submitted by a couple that was expecting a child, refused to show the apartment to the mother of a toddler and falsely informed the mother of a toddler requesting a rental application that an apartment was no longer available.

In addition, Gateway and its agents allegedly refused prospective tenants because the apartment likely contained lead paint and the rental would have required the defendants to remove the lead paint hazards.

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