Home » LAW » Attorney General Press Releases – 1st half of 2013

Attorney General Press Releases – 1st half of 2013

Cambridge Landlord to Pay $25,000 to Settle Claims of Housing Discrimination and Retaliation Against a Family

Trust Accused of Failing to Remove Lead Paint Hazards

BOSTON – The owner of an apartment building in Cambridge has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle allegations that a former trustee and property manager discriminated against a family with a young child to avoid an obligation to remove lead paint hazards and later retaliated against the family for filing a discrimination complaint, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The consent judgment, entered Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court, requires Ware Hall Trust, the owner of the 60-unit apartment building in Cambridge, to relocate the family and delead the apartment where they currently reside. The Trust recently paid more than $29,000 owed on a judgment obtained by the AG’s Office and the City of Cambridge when they brought suit to enforce an order by the Cambridge Human Rights Commission (CHRC) regarding the initial discrimination allegations.

“The Commonwealth’s lead paint law protects children from the damaging effects of lead including impaired development and learning difficulties,” AG Coakley said. “We must ensure that families with children have access to lead-safe housing and are not discriminated against for asserting their rights under the law.”

The complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court in September 2011, alleges that the Ware Hall Trust and Marina Kaufman, its former trustee, disproportionately increased the family’s monthly rent, refused to accept rental payments, refused to renew their lease and failed to abate lead hazards in the family’s apartment. The building’s former superintendent also allegedly harassed the family after they filed a complaint with the CHRC.

Under the terms of the settlement, Ware Hall Trust will pay $25,000, including $10,000 to the City of Cambridge, $5,000 to the family, and $10,000 to the Commonwealth. The settlement also requires all employees to attend fair housing training.

Under the state’s anti-discrimination law, it is illegal to discriminate against tenants because they have children or because the rental would require the landlord to abate lead hazards. It is also illegal for a landlord to retaliate against tenants because they have asserted their rights under the lead paint and anti-discrimination laws.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Gabrielle Viator of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division

For Immediate Release – February 27, 2013

Boston Area Landlord to Pay $75,000 and Delead Units to Resolve Fair Housing Lawsuit

Largest Fair Housing Settlement with Property Owner to Date Under AG Coakley

BOSTON – A Boston area property owner has agreed to pay $75,000 and delead his rental units, resolving allegations that he engaged in a pattern of unlawful and retaliatory practices against tenants with young children in order to avoid his obligation to comply with state lead paint laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday, resolves a fair housing complaint filed in February 2011 against Keith L. Miller, of Newton, who at the time owned and managed at least 24 residential rental units in Chelsea, Newton, Arlington, and Brighton. This is the largest fair housing settlement with a landlord that has been reached under AG Coakley.

“In a rental market as large as Greater Boston’s, it’s important that tenants know their rights and that landlords follow the law,” AG Coakley said. “This settlement demonstrates that there are serious consequences for landlords who would sacrifice public safety to save a few dollars.”

In February 2012, the AG’s Office expanded its case against Miller, after learning of additional claims by tenants of the landlord’s bullying tactics and discriminatory behavior. The amended complaint alleged that Miller evicted, or threatened to evict, tenants with young children, rented apartments containing lead paint to tenants with young children, failed to remove lead hazards in those apartments, failed to provide proper notice of lead hazards to his tenants, made misrepresentations regarding the presence of lead paint in his apartments, and refused to repair unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

More recently, the AG’s Office obtained summary judgment for claims that Miller failed to abate lead hazards, failed to provide proper notice of lead hazards, and that he illegally attempted to charge tenants for water use.  The court held that those violations constituted violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act as well.

The consent judgment, together with an agreement to dismiss outstanding claims against Miller, extends the preliminary injunction obtained from the court in March 2012 for five additional years, requiring Miller to remove lead paint hazards from his units, if children under six are residing in them, to refrain from discriminating against tenants, and to not retaliate against his tenants for complaining about unsafe conditions, including by giving the AG’s Office notice of any eviction proceedings he initiates against his tenants.

In addition to the payment and the extension of the preliminary injunction, the settlement requires that Miller:

Delead a three-unit rental property in Arlington, upon the vacancy of the current tenants;

  • Obtain certificates of habitability prior to the commencement of any new tenancies;
  • Advise the Attorney General’s Office of newly-acquired properties and the lead status of those units;
  • Direct all employees engaged in the rental or management of his properties to receive fair housing training; and
  • Provide the Attorney General’s Office with notice of claims of discrimination made against him.

Under federal and state fair housing laws, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual or family seeking housing because of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, familial status (e.g. children or marital status), national origin, or handicap/disability.  These laws also prohibit discrimination in advertising, public housing, and actions taken by landlords, realtors, mortgage lenders and brokers.  Massachusetts laws also require disclosure of lead paint history, abatement of lead paint hazards in units in which children under the age of six are present, and prohibit landlords from retaliating against tenants who assert their rights under the lead paint laws.

This matter was handled by Jonathan Miller, Chief of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, and Joshua Jacobson, an Assistant Attorney General in AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division.

For Immediate Release – March 26, 2013

Worcester Condominium Complex and Management Company to Pay $20,000 to Settle Housing Discrimination Allegations

BOSTON – A Worcester housing complex and its property management company will pay $20,000 to resolve allegations of disability-based housing discrimination, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The assurance of discontinuance (AOD), filed with the Suffolk Superior Court today, resolves allegations that Federal Square Condominium Trust, owner of a 76-unit condominium complex with four commercial units in Worcester, and its property management company Alpine Property Management, failed to respond to a tenant’s requests to make the building wheelchair accessible. Specifically, the tenant requested that the defendants fix the often-broken elevators or install a ramp. Because of the failure to respond and to make the requested modifications, the tenant and her disabled partner were forced to move out of the building.

“Massachusetts law requires landlords to communicate with and provide reasonable accommodations for their tenants with disabilities,” AG Coakley said. “Landlords must meet their obligations under the law in a timely manner especially when it comes to tenants who have every right to safe access to their own home.”

Under Massachusetts law, when a property owner or manager receives a request from a tenant with disabilities for an accommodation, the owner or manager has to take steps to communicate with the tenant to identify whether or not it is reasonable to provide such an accommodation.  They may ultimately deny the tenant’s request, but they have to engage in an interactive process.

Under the terms of the agreement, Federal Square and Alpine will pay a total of $20,000, including $16,500 to the tenant and $3,500 to the Commonwealth. In addition, Alpine will implement new policies to ensure that it properly responds to requests for reasonable accommodations in the future within 15 business days and to maintain a written log of all requests to ensure compliance.

The AOD also requires all Alpine employees to attend training on federal and state fair housing laws, and maintain the elevators at the Federal Square Condominiums in full working condition.

Assistant Attorney General Gabrielle Viator and Paralegal Bethany Brown of Attorney General Coakley’s Civil Rights Division handled this matter.

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For Immediate Release – May 09, 2013

Billerica Moving Company Agrees to Pay Up to $202,000 Over Allegations of Holding Consumers’ Goods Hostage

Father and Son Moving and Storage Prohibited from Engaging in Deceptive Practices; Consumers to Receive Restitution

BOSTON – A moving company from Billerica and its owners have agreed to pay up to $202,000 to settle allegations of inflating fees, demanding cash last minute, and holding consumers’ goods hostage in order to receive payment, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday, permanently enjoins Father and Son Relocation Services, Inc. – which does business as Father and Son Moving and Storage – from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices that violate the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

“Consumers place their faith in moving companies, entrusting them with their most valuable possessions and hard-earned money,” AG Coakley said. “This settlement protects consumers from further harm, provides them restitution, and requires that this business will operate honestly and fairly from now on.”

Defendants in this case also include Bryan Taylor, president of Father and Son, Keith Taylor, treasurer, secretary and director of Father and Son, and PR Taylor Enterprises, LLC, which does business as Father and Son Moving and Storage. The defendants offer services for consumers moving within Massachusetts, and consumers making interstate moves.

According to a complaint filed in court last October, the defendants lured customers with advertisements which falsely promised reliable, customer-focused service and low estimates of fees to induce consumers to contract for their services. The defendants allegedly then demanded higher fees only after they had possession of the consumers’ household goods. In order to get their belongings, consumers had no choice but to pay additional costs upfront.

The complaint also alleges that the defendants provided storage and warehousing services for goods at their facility in Billerica, but prior to August 30, 2012, had done so without the required license to operate a public warehouse issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety.

The settlement requires Father and Son to pay up to $202,000 in total, including $75,000 in restitution to consumers, and $110,000 in penalties to the Commonwealth. A portion of those penalties – $50,000 – is suspended, provided that the defendants do not violate provisions of the judgment. The defendants will also pay $17,000 to the Commonwealth for fees and costs associated with the case, with $10,000 of those fees suspended as well.

Consumers are advised to do their homework, shop around, and find a reputable household goods mover. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU), which licenses household goods movers operating within Massachusetts, offers tips on selecting a reputable mover. Carriers moving household goods from one state to another must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which offers tips on selecting a reputable interstate mover.

Consumers who wish to complain about a household goods mover may contact the DPU, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at (617) 727-8400.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Schrumpf and Deputy Chief David Monahan of Attorney General Coakley’s Consumer Protection Division handled this matter, with assistance from Paralegal Krista Roche, Investigators Monique Cascarano and Anthony Sibilia, and the Civil Investigations Division.

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For Immediate Release – May 28, 2013

Holyoke Man Found Guilty, Sentenced to Jail in Connection with Violating Civil Rights

Defendant Engaged in Race-Based Harassment of Neighbors

SPRINGFIELD – A Holyoke man has been found guilty in connection with the racial harassment of his tenant in violation of her civil rights and sentenced to jail, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

Following a two day trial, a Hampden Superior Court jury found Jesse Jedrzejczyk, 58, guilty on the charge of Civil Rights Violation. Following the verdict Judge Daniel Ford sentenced Jedrzejczyk to one year in the house of correction, six months to serve with the balance suspended for one year. Jedrzejczyk was further ordered to attend counseling per his probation, comply with the permanent injunction, engage in substance abuse evaluations, and stay away from and have no contact with the victims.

“The defendant harassed and intimidated victims despite being subject to a court order due to similar behavior in the past,” AG Coakley said. “This verdict and sentence shows that bias and hate-motivated conduct is not tolerated in Massachusetts.”

In 2009, the Attorney General’s Office filed a Superior Court civil action against Jedrzejczyk pursuant to the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act and obtained a permanent injunction against him based on allegations that he threatened, intimidated, and harassed a neighbor and her young daughters because of their perceived race. Despite being subject to the Superior Court order, Jedrzejczyk engaged in substantially similar behavior toward his tenant and her infant child because of their perceived race. Jedrzejczyk rented the first floor apartment in his building to his tenant. The tenant, a white female, was three months pregnant at the time she moved into the defendant’s building. After the tenant brought home her newborn biracial infant, Jedrzejczyk regularly harassed his tenant using racial slurs thereby intimidating his tenant, creating concern for her infant’s safety and, ultimately, forcing her to move from her home.

A Hampden County grand jury returned indictments against Jedrzejczyk on October 23, 2012. Jedrzejczyk was arraigned in Hampden Superior Court on November 8, 2012 where he pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $10,000 bail. Jedrzejczyk was found guilty on May 24 by a Hampden Superior Court jury following a two day trial and was sentenced to jail.

AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division works to protect the civil rights of all residents and visitors to Massachusetts. The Attorney General’s Office may obtain an injunction if an individual is the victim of threats, intimidation, or coercion on the basis of a protected category or a protected activity pursuant to the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, commonly referred to as the “hate crimes” statute.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Beth A. Lux, of the Criminal Division and Ann E. Lynch, of the Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Victim Witness Advocate Ashley Cinelli and members of the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office.

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For Immediate Release – May 29, 2013

Melrose Landlord and Property Manager Ordered to Pay More Than $38,000 for Discriminatory Craigslist Ad

Court Judgment Requires Defendants to Delead Unit, Attend Fair Housing Training

BOSTON – A Melrose landlord and property manager have been ordered to pay more than $38,000 in a housing discrimination case that resulted from posting a Craigslist advertisement indicating their unwillingness to rent to families with children because of the lead status of a rental unit, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

Last week, a civil judgment was entered in Suffolk Superior Court against landlord Nicholas Keramaris and MT. V.M. Realty Trust (MT. V.M.) – the owner of a 20-unit rental property in Melrose – who were found to have violated both the state anti-discrimination law and consumer protection law by posting an advertisement on the popular classified advertising website Craigslist.org stating that an apartment “is not deleaded, therefore it cannot be rented to families with children under six years old.”

“Massachusetts law is very clear – landlords cannot avoid their obligations under the state’s lead paint laws by refusing to rent to families with young children,” AG Coakley said. “This judgment demonstrates that there are serious consequences for violating anti-discrimination laws.”

In 2010, the AG’s Office filed a complaint against Keramaris and MT. V.M., alleging that their advertisements were discriminatory against families with young children. Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal to refuse to rent or steer families away from rental properties because they have young children whose presence triggers an owner’s duty to eliminate lead hazards that pose serious health risks.

The Court has ordered Keramaris and MT. V.M. to pay a civil penalty of $10,000, and more than $28,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. They have also been ordered to cease from posting any discriminatory advertisements, and delead the next two-bedroom apartment in the building that becomes available for rent that is not yet deleaded. Additionally, both Nicholas Keramaris and George Keramaris, the trustee, are required to attend fair housing training.

Attorney General Coakley’s office works to ensure that the civil rights and liberties of visitors and residents of the Commonwealth are protected. Under federal and state fair housing laws, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual or a family seeking housing because of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, familial status (e.g., children or marital status), national origin, or handicap/disability. Since 2007, the AG’s Office has handled more than 130 housing and lending discrimination cases, resulting in more than $2.6 million in relief to Massachusetts residents.

This matter was handled by Jonathan B. Miller, Chief of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Andrew Koster, an Assistant Attorney General in AG Coakley’s Trial Division.

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