Massachusetts Sues Boston Housing Authority For Subjecting Family To Unsanitary Conditions

by | Apr 3, 2024 | Landlord Tenant Law |

In January 2024 the state Attorney General’s office sued the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) over its treatment of a family with two girls with asthma and developmental issues, charging the authority ignored repeated complaints for three years about the unsanitary conditions in their Franklin Field apartment that were so bad the girls had to seek emergency care at a local hospital two to three times a month.

According to the suit, the BHA moved the woman, her mother and the woman’s two nieces, who were living with them, into a four-bedroom Franklin Field apartment in 2016 – an apartment that was already overrun by “mice and other pests,” as were other apartments at the development, conditions that grew worse as the BHA ignored repeated complaints.

The state said the authority’s repeated ignoring of both the woman’s requests and documentation from her family’s doctors about the harmful impact of them being in close daily contact with mice, their droppings, their urine and mold – which started sprouting in 2018 – violates both state housing anti-discrimination law and a Boston-specific fair-housing law. It is seeking compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the family.

The suit describes the increasing hell it says the family found itself in not long after moving into a four-bedroom unit on Ames Street in Franklin Field in 2016:

[T]he radiators in the apartment were filled with mice droppings, there were droppings and chewed holes in all the furniture despite routine cleaning, and the entire family were living in fear of seeing mice, at times seeing more than five mice every hour.

It was so bad that the family “did not want to cook or eat in the unit due to fear of contamination by mice droppings and urine.”

Then, in 2018, the suit continues, the family began noticing “a strong mildew smell in the unit” and black mold growing on ceilings.

In October, 2019, the suit says, the nieces’ doctor contact the city Inspectional Services Department to request an inspection. On Oct. 24, 2019, the suit says, ISD notified BHA that the apartment was in violation of the state sanitary code.

In response, the state alleges, the BHA sent somebody out to swab some bleach on the mold and repaint the affected areas, but the mold soon came back.

The authority did nothing special about the mice – it simply continued what it was doing – and so the rodents never left, the suit charges. If anything, the number of mice – and their droppings and urine – only increased, forcing the woman and her nieces to spend time in relatives’ homes away from Franklin Field – several days a month – to try to get some respite.

Finally, all four people had to sleep in a single bed, because the girls were too scared to sleep in their own after a mouse crawled into bed with one of them, the state says.

In December, 2020, the woman asked BHA to transfer her family to a unit somewhere else. BHA ignored her request and follow up requests and letters from both her nieces’ doctor and her own doctor saying the problems were making her own health problems worse, in part due to anxiety and her attempts to keep up with the problems on her own by cleaning the apartment twice a day.

In August, 2022, ISD inspected the apartment again and again concluded it was in violation of the state sanitary code. Despite that, and a fourth formal request from the woman for help, BHA did nothing, the state says, adding:

On January 22, 2023, BHA’s extermination contractor removed fourteen mice from the apartment and found that the bait stations in the unit had been “wiped clean” due to the severity of the infestation. As a result, the contractor designated 20A Ames as a “**High Priority Unit””.”

On March 15, 2023, the suit states, BHA sent a property manager to take a look. The next day, that manager called the woman to discuss an “emergency administrative transfer” to another unit.

Finally, on May 1, 2023, the woman and her nieces – her mother died in 2022 – moved into a new unit on D Street in the BHA’s West Broadway development.

On Sept. 26, she asked the BHA – attaching a letter from her nieces’ doctor, asking for window guards, a video doorbell and security cameras.

“In particular, due to their developmental and mental health diagnoses, A.C. and D.C. require these modifications in order to feel safe in their home, and in order to monitor any unpredictable behavior resulting from these diagnoses.”

Also, the woman asked the BHA to address “inadequate and ripped screens” that were allowing bugs into the unit and “continually leaking toilets which were creating conditions likely to lead to mold growth.

To date, none of the work has been done, the state says, adding the requests were for “reasonable accommodations” to the family’s physical and mental health issues.

Are you being subjected to unhealthy and unsanitary conditions at your residence, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE consultation to discuss your concerns.

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