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Tuesday, June 07, 2022

AG HEALEY REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH BOSTON HOUSING PROVIDER FOR FAILING TO ACCOMMODATE A YOUNG CHILD’S DISABILITY

AG HEALEY REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH BOSTON HOUSING PROVIDER FOR FAILING TO ACCOMMODATE A YOUNG CHILD’S DISABILITY

Child with Asthma Exposed to Secondhand Smoke and Rodent Infestation; Case Is Part of AG’s Ongoing Efforts to Combat Housing Discrimination in Massachusetts, Including New Guidance for Landlords and Tenants 

            BOSTON – A property management company and its owner have agreed to pay $35,000 in restitution and implement no smoking policies in its Roxbury and Dorchester affordable housing units, to settle allegations that they unlawfully denied a tenant and their young disabled child the reasonable accommodations necessary to address secondhand smoke and a rodent infestation that posed a serious health risk to the child, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

To help educate landlords, tenants, and those in the real estate business about requirements to provide reasonable housing accommodations, the AG’s Office today issued new resource guidance with information on state and federal housing laws. The AG’s Office also issued guidance for tenants on what to do when conditions in a home negatively impact their health or the health of a family member. Both resources guides are available in English and Spanish.

“Housing providers cannot deny tenants their right to a safe and sanitary home,” said AG Healey. “My office is committed to enforcing nondiscrimination and other laws that protect vulnerable tenants from living in conditions that make them sick, and we will continue to educate landlords and tenants about their rights and obligations under the law when it comes to apartment conditions and accommodations.”

            According to the AG’s settlement with Peabody Properties, Inc., a large property management company, and the apartment’s owner, JPNDC Pitts MM LLC, the two companies violated the state's antidiscrimination and consumer protection laws by failing to make a reasonable accommodation for a young child with asthma, despite repeated requests from the child’s parent and medical team. JPNDC Pitts and Peabody Properties allegedly failed to adequately address secondhand smoke that was seeping into their apartment and failed to mitigate a serious rodent infestation in the building that was aggravating the child’s asthma. While the two companies initially provided air purifiers for the family’s unit at the time they moved in, the air purifiers did not abate the presence of secondhand smoke in the unit and the child suffered serious medical consequences as a result. Requests from the child’s parent and medical team to transfer to a non-smoking unit as further reasonable accommodation were ignored, and the child’s health worsened as a result.

Under the terms of the settlement, JPNDC Pitts and Peabody Properties have agreed to pay the family $35,000, to implement a no smoking policy across the entire JPNDC portfolio of affordable housing units – which includes more than 200 units in the Boston area – and develop a plan to ensure the policy is enforced. Peabody Properties has also agreed to assist the family in accessing waitlists for properties outside of the JPNDC Pitts property portfolio that are smoke-free.

            This case was referred to the AG’s Office from the Boston Fair Housing Commission, which found probable cause that the two companies failed to provide a reasonable accommodation.

AG Healey has been a leader in combatting housing discrimination in Massachusetts and has taken similar action involving discrimination against tenants with disabilities. In 2021, the AG’s Office reached a settlement with the Boston Housing Authority to resolve allegations that it denied a tenant and child with significant health issues access to suitable housing. During Fair Housing Month in April, the AG’s Office announced the resolution of four housing discrimination cases in which tenants were refused housing due to their receipt of public assistance. In the same month, AG Healey reached agreements with two companies as part of an ongoing investigation into the tenant screening and background check industry for potential discriminative algorithms being used to screen prospective tenants for housing. Additionally, in 2020, several South Shore real estate brokers resolved an investigation by the AG’s Office into allegations that they discriminated against prospective tenants based on receipt of public assistance.

 

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is committed to enforcing the state’s antidiscrimination laws and encourages those who have concerns about housing discrimination to call the office’s Civil Rights Division at 617-963-2917 or to file a complaint online.

 

Today’s settlement matter was handled by Managing Attorney Amanda Hainsworth of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Ciara Tran of the AG’s Civil Investigations Division.

 

To view the AG’s reasonable accommodations resource guide for housing in English, click here. For Spanish, click here.  

 

To view the AG’s guidance on tenant rights related to apartment conditions in English, click here. For Spanish, click here.

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