Settlement in Methuen condo case
A Methuen condominium association agreed to to pay $150,00 in restitution and penalties to resolve federal claims that it prohibited children from playing in the complex's common area.
The Stonecleave Village Association Inc. agreed to pay $130,000 to victims and $20,000 in civil penalties as part of the agreement with the US Department of Justice related to allegations that the association discriminated against residents with children. The condo board also agreed to training on the Fair Housing Act.
Joshua Walls, the Boston attorney representing the association, released a statement: "The Stonecleave Village Association is pleased that this matter has reached a voluntary resolution and looks forward to continuing to be a vibrant and welcoming place to live."
Carmen M. Ortiz, the US Attorney in Boston, said in a statement, "This settlement should serve as a warning to condo associations across the Commonwealth that discrimination against residents with children is unacceptable.''
And John Trasvina, US assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, added: "Forcing families to pay so their children can play is unacceptable and illegal.''
The settlement comes almost a year after the US Attorney's Office filed a civil lawsuit in US District Court alleging that the association fined families with children more than $500 for playing in the common area, yet fined other residents only $10 for similar violations. The US Justice Department also alleged the association "retaliated" against one mother by charging her an additional $1,000 for the cost of defending itself against an earlier complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Five families complained to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which referred the case to the Justice Department.
The payment must be approved by US District Court Judge Joseph Tauro. According to its website, the complex near the New Hampshire border was built in 1981 and includes 78 units, including townhouses and single-level ranches.