BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has brought a lawsuit against a Saugus real estate company for allegedly using the Craigslist Web site to post discriminatory housing advertisements.
Eastern Property Management Group, Inc., is charged with posting four discriminatory rental advertisements on Craigslist in the first two months of 2010. The ads allegedly discriminated against families with young children and against recipients of public assistance.
The ads, all based on the same Chelsea apartment, allegedly stated that "the apartment may have lead paint so if you have young children under 6 years old or are on Section 8 this will not work for you."
Under the Massachusetts lead paint law, a property owner cannot refuse to rent to a prospective tenant with young children over the possible presence of lead paint in the apartment.
Under federal and state fair housing laws, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual or a family seeking housing because of a person's race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, handicap/disability or because the person is a recipient of public assistance.
The complaint also alleges that an investigator posing as a father with a young child was turned away and told that he would need to sign a release form before he could rent the Chelsea property.
"Hiding under the anonymity of the Internet is no longer an option for landlords, property managers or real estate brokers that are trying to thwart housing discriminations laws in Massachusetts," Coakley said.
"Enforcing housing discrimination laws is a priority for this office and real estate professionals will be held accountable when they break the law and discriminate against vulnerable citizens in our community."
The lawsuit seeks to stop Eastern Property from further engaging in housing discrimination and to require fair housing training for the company's employees.
The suit is also looking for compensatory and punitive damages, civil penalties, and attorneys fees and costs.