Martha Coakley (D)
BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Twenty cases against landlords and real estate agents accused of violating state anti-discrimination laws across Massachusetts have been settled by Attorney General Martha Coakley's office.
The companies were alleged to have made discriminatory statements in rental advertisements that were posted on the classified advertising website Craigslist.org. Lawsuits were also filed against six other defendants based on similar allegations.
The advertisements included language that stated "no children" or "no Section 8" in violation of the law. Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because a property owner's duties under the lead paint law would be triggered by children or because someone receives a housing subsidy to aid in paying their rent.
Both the settlements and lawsuits came as part of a statewide investigation into reports of widespread discriminatory internet advertising. The case involved properties in Suffolk, Middlesex, Norfolk, Essex, Bristol, Plymouth, and Hampden counties.
"Housing discrimination is a serious problem in Massachusetts. Particularly as more families face tough financial times and have no choice but to rent, landlords and real estate professionals must recognize that the rental market is a regulated industry and compliance with our antidiscrimination laws is among their most important obligations," Coakley said. "While we hope that this enforcement initiative will have a deterrent effect, our office will continue to monitor Craigslist and take action against persons and entities that violate the law."
The property owners and real estate agents are collectively required to pay Massachusetts $18,250 with $8,750 suspended pending compliance with the agreements. The defendants must also attend trainings on state and federal fair housing laws and remove lead paint hazards from rental units. The defendants are also prohibited from placing any discriminatory advertisements or otherwise discriminating against any person of a protected class who seeks or applies for housing.
The defendants are also required by the agreement to advertise any future rental property as "Equal Housing Opportunity" properties, to maintain a record of rental applicants submitted by prospective tenants and to to report all discrimination complaints received to the attorney general's office.
The defendants will also place more than 60 postings on Craigslist to inform the website's uses that the attorney general monitors the site for discriminatory advertising and that it is against Massachusetts law to state a discriminatory preference against families with children or against recipients of housing assistance subsidies.