Mass. Landlord Liable for Refusing to Rent Unit with Lead Paint

A Massachusetts jury recently found the owner of a four-unit rental property liable for violating fair housing law when he refused to rent an apartment to a family because they had children under 6 years old and the units had no lead certificate.

In its complaint, the Justice Department alleged that the couple were already living in the building with the wife’s mother and their 2-year-old child at the time they attempted to rent their own unit. Allegedly, the landlord told the family that he would not rent an apartment to them because they had a child under the age of 6 and were expecting another baby. Allegedly, the property contained lead hazards and the lease included an addendum that prospective renters could not rent units if they had minor children, were pregnant, or became pregnant.

After the couple filed a complaint with state authorities, the landlord allegedly retaliated by suing the couple in federal court, alleging $1 million in damages. Furthermore, the complaint alleged, the landlord began eviction proceedings against the family and the wife’s mother almost immediately after they filed their complaint with HUD.

After a five-day trial, a jury found that the landlord interfered with the family’s fair housing rights and engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against prospects based on their familial status. The jury awarded $8,500 in damages to the family, and imposed a $35,000 civil penalty for the pattern and practice of discrimination.