Two companies that make software for landlords have agreed to pay Massachusetts $100,000 and eliminate a feature that allows property managers to automatically reject prospective tenants with criminal records or people who plan to use government assistance to pay the rent, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
The attorney general’s office said the out-of-state partners — Buildium and Tenant Turner — offered a feature that allowed landlords to click a button to rule out Section 8 recipients. The web-based program also allowed property managers to screen out people with certain felony convictions.
The attorney general’s office said the firms claimed they were providing “fair housing-compliant” tenant screening, even though the state fair housing law protects tenants from discrimination on the basis of source of income.
“If landlords are discriminating based on housing vouchers, then those vouchers can’t do their job of helping to ensure that people have safe and stable housing here in Massachusetts,” said Abby Taylor, head of the attorney general’s civil rights division.
The agency said it began investigating the software after the Cambridge Human Rights Commission received a complaint from a property management company that had inadvertently selected an option in the software to disqualify all tenants who received government subsidies; the company discovered the error after hearing from a prospective tenant who was denied a showing due to a housing voucher.
The attorney general’s office said Thursday’s settlement is part of a broader investigation into potentially discriminatory practices in the “tenant screening and background check industry.”
If you have been denied housing because you are the recipient of government assistance to pay rent or have a record of felony convictions, seek legal assistance from the Law Offices of Renee Lazar.
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