Massachusetts Sues Firm for Refusing Housing to Section 8 Voucher Holder

A Boston-based real estate management company, its property manager, and a multifamily housing owner have been sued for violating the state’s antidiscrimination law for allegedly refusing to rent to a recipient of a federal housing subsidy, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced earlier this month. The complaint alleged that the defendants refused to rent to a prospective tenant because he intended to use a Section 8 affordable housing voucher to pay for the rent.

Under Massachusetts law, it’s illegal to discriminate against housing applicants because they receive public assistance. Housing discrimination includes refusing to rent or sell, failing or refusing to negotiate, withholding information about available housing accommodations, falsely representing that housing accommodations are unavailable, or imposing different terms or conditions for housing accommodations.

According to the complaint, the real estate management firm has a portfolio of more than 60 residential properties in Massachusetts, including a rental apartment complex in Arlington, Mass. Allegedly, the property manager placed several advertisements for available one-bedroom rental units at the complex in November 2011. On two separate occasions, he allegedly withheld information about available rental units and failed to negotiate with a prospective resident who informed him that he had a Section 8 voucher.

After the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination found probable cause that the defendants had unlawfully discriminated against the prospective tenant, the Attorney General’s Office filed suit. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, damages for the victim, and punitive damages.

“We are facing critical affordable housing needs in the Commonwealth and the strain on those needing rental or transitional housing assistance is particularly great,” Coakley said in a statement. “Discrimination against those receiving housing assistance subsidies is illegal, and realtors, brokers, and landlords must operate within the bounds of the law.”

Source: Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office