Landlord Accused of Discrimination Over Lead Paint Restrictions
A landlord in Massachusetts is now facing charges of discrimination for telling housing authority testers that she would not rent to families with young children.
The landlord is accused of turning away testers — housing workers posing as rental applicants, who stated they had young children. In each case, the landlord explained that she couldn’t rent to families with young children because the property had not been certified lead-free.
The landlord’s interpretation of a Massachusetts state law requiring owners of older rental properties where a child under the age of six may reside to remove lead paint hazards may have contributed to her decision to deny housing to families with young children.
However, by charging the landlord for discrimination, HUD makes it clear that refusing to rent to children is not a viable alternative to applying for lead free certification.
According to the charges, the landlord owns 24 units.
A statement from HUD claims “while property owners may tell families about housing units that have not been remediated for lead paint, the presence of lead-based paint cannot be used as a reason to refuse to rent.”A HUD spokesman commenting on the case adds, “Laws to make apartment buildings lead-free should not be used as an excuse to make them child-free.”
The landlord is accused of posting an ad on Craigslist for a three-bedroom apartment that has not been certified lead free. In response to the ad, a local housing authority arranged for testers to call the number listed. In a phone conversation with one tester who said she had a five-year-old and a six-year-old, the landlord allegedly said, “This apartment does not have a lead certificate and the law says I can’t rent to anyone with children under five.”
Later, HUD further claims that the landlord refused to show a unit to another tester with a two-year-old son, because the unit did not have a lead certificate.The case could result in the landlord paying significant fines or damages. It is not known if the landlord may have violated state law by attempting to rent out an uncertified property, or whether the state has filed charges in addition to the HUD claim.
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