Coakley settles with real estate companies

By Bryan Cohen | Jun 13, 2011


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced settlements on Friday with two real estate companies for violations of state anti-discrimination laws.

Top Real Estate & Development Inc., a Lynn-based real estate company, its agent and its property landlords resolved allegations that they violated state anti-discrimination and lead paint laws by refusing to rent or show an apartment to a pregnant woman.

Under the terms of the assurance of discontinuance, the company, real estate agent Phyllis Ricci and property owners John Paine and Margaret Anne Paine are required to abide by state and federal fair housing and anti-discrimination laws, report to Coakley's office if further complaints are lodged against them, make a monetary payment of $2,000 to the commonwealth and the alleged victim, and attend anti-discrimination and housing training to ensure that they conduct business in a way that comports with the law and treats all prospective and current buyers, sellers and tenants fairly.

The defendants allegedly discriminated against a potential tenant in May 2010 when she could not view an advertised apartment. The prospective tenant was eight months pregnant at the time and would have resided in the apartment with a young child whose presence would have required the owners to comply with state lead paint laws.

Under the terms of a final judgment of consent with Prime Properties Inc., a Chelmsford-based real estate company, its employees and agents must abide by federal and state fair housing and anti-discrimination laws, receive fair housing training, notify Coakley's office of any housing discrimination complaints for the next several years, and pay $1,000 to the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, $750 to the victim and $2,500 to the state.

A prospective tenant in August allegedly responded to an advertisement for a rental unit owned by the company and, upon informing a company employee she had a daughter, was told that the unit was not appropriate for her. Employees of the company subsequently refused to rent units to testers from the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston who posed as prospective tenants with children.

The settlement and judgment require combined payments of $6,250 to the victims, the state and the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston.

It is illegal to discriminate against housing applicants because they have young children or because their presence could trigger an owner's duty to eliminate lead hazards that pose serious health risks.

"Massachusetts law prohibits landlords and real estate professionals from refusing to rent to prospective tenants because they have children," Coakley said. "Massachusetts is facing critical housing needs and compliance with the law is an important obligation as all residents must be treated fairly."

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