A recent Boston.com article illustrates the perils of housing discrimination in Massachusetts. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil complaint against a North Attleborough apartment complex owner for discriminating against applicants with children. This owner reportedly tried to discourage renters with children from renting one of his apartments. The parties in this case reached a settlement: $135,000 in restitution (and likely a great deal for attorney fees for the apartment owner).
Housing discrimination is illegal, both under state and federal law. As this article shows, these laws are enforced. Landlords caught discriminating against potential tenants can face huge fines, even if the alleged discrimination is inadvertent.
With this in mind, landlords need to familiarize themselves with the protected classes of persons from discrimination (The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has a great summary of these laws). I always recommend that landlords keep a log of all the potential tenants who look at their rental properties, and the specific reasons why the landlord decides to reject an applicant. Landlords who are concerned about asking the wrong questions during the application process should consider using a script and write their questions in advance. While this may sound overkill, the risks of being accused of rental discrimination just isn’t worth it.