From the Bench: Trio of Housing Discrimination Settlements

May 1, 2019

- By The MAR Legal Team

The office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey recently announced settlements in three housing discrimination cases requiring the defendants to pay a total of $40,000, undergo staff training, update fair housing policies, and clarify in property advertisements that Section 8 tenants are welcome. In each of the cases, individuals receiving public assistance through the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program were rejected by rental housing representatives because of their participation in the program.

What Did the Agents Do?

Specifically, two rental property representatives told Section 8 program participants that they could not accept Section 8 vouchers, and the third said that their rental property was “not approved for Section 8.” It is illegal to bar a Section 8 recipient from renting a property because of their participation in the program and there is no Section 8property pre-approval. In addition, one of the defendants had a written policy requiring Section 8 recipients to confirm that their housing authority would pay a certain rent amount prior to applying to rent an apartment. The Attorney General’s office alleges that this policy is illegal because it creates an additional step for Section 8 recipients not faced by other tenants and makes it “nearly impossible for voucher-holders to rent an apartment.”

What This Means for REALTORS®

The Attorney General’s announcement provides a good refresher on discrimination. It is illegal to discriminate against a person because they receive public assistance or a housing subsidy, such as Section 8, just as it is illegal to discriminate against them because of their race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, age, ancestry, veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, children, or handicap. Refusing to rent, lease, or otherwise deny or withhold housing from anyone on the basis of any of the aforementioned classifications is illegal. Make sure you are familiar with Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 151B, Section 4, Code of Massachusetts Regulations Chapter 804, Section 2.00, and other guidance from the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.