Housing Discrimination on the Rise in Massachusetts

by | Jun 10, 2022 | Landlord Tenant Law |

Four housing discrimination cases in Massachusetts, including one in Ashland and another in Wellesley, were settled recently by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.

In each case, potential tenants were denied housing from real estate brokers and agencies based on their source of income, Healy’s office said last week in a statement.

“Rental assistance programs play a critical role in ensuring economic stability for families and residents across Massachusetts — especially our underserved and disadvantaged communities,” Healey said.

In January 2019, a woman contacted a broker at Realty Executives Boston West in Framingham about an apartment in Ashland for her adult son, who is disabled and receives public assistance. When she asked if the property owner would rent to a tenant with a Section 8 voucher — a program that increases affordable housing choices for low-income households by paying a portion of their rent in privately owned housing —the broker allegedly said the owner would not consider the tenant.

According to the AG’s Office, the woman was also told her application was rejected but she later discovered that the broker never sent it to the owner. Additionally, the woman later learned that the apartment owner didn’t have an problem renting to a tenant with a Section 8 voucher.

Calls placed Wednesday and Thursday seeking comment from Realty Executives Boston West were not returned.

After the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) determined in its investigation that it was likely the broker illegally discriminated against the woman’s son for his disability and income source, Healey’s office was called in.

In a settlement, Realty Executive Boston West agreed to pay $15,000 in restitution, adopt a fair housing policy, add fair housing training and inclusive language to encourage residents with housing subsidies to apply, and implement fair housing statements in advertising, according Healy’s office.

In another case, a housing counselor working for a family with an enhanced subsidy was looking for a home in January 2021 and contacted Haynes Management Inc. in Wellesley Hills about a property in Wellesley owned by the Haynes Family LLC, Healey’s office said. A staff member allegedly said Section 8 vouchers would not be accepted and the housing counselor reported this directly to the Attorney General’s Office.

The Haynes entities to agreed to similar settlement terms as in the Ashland case. They included paying $25,000 in restitution and penalties, advertising rental units on common internet sites to increase visibility for prospective tenants with Section 8 vouchers, eliminating the minimum income requirement on a tenant that received housing or rental subsidy, adding fair housing laws training for staff and fair housing language in advertisements, as well as creating a fair housing policy.

No one from the Haynes entities responded to calls for comment.

In a statement, Healey noted that April is Fair Housing Month in recognition of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act in 1968.

“These resolutions send a message that the housing industry cannot refuse to rent to residents because of who they are or whether they received public assistance, and my office will take action against those who do,” she said.

If you are denied housing based on your income, disability, national origination, religion, age, race or gender, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.

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