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Out of control landlords

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis August 17, 2012 09:41 AM

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With rents escalating madly, it's tough enough already for renters in Greater Boston and across the country as well.

But in addition to keeping a hand on their wallets, tenants also need to keep an eye out for those bad-apple landlords who opt to play by their own crooked rules.

It's a particularly pertinent topic given the biggest moving day of the year in the student-packed Boston area, Sept. 1, is fast approaching.

And sometimes tenants face not just discrimination, but outright abuse by predatory landlords, as in the case of Cincinnati apartment owner who was recently fined $855,000 by the feds.

Here's an excerpt from a story posted on Cincinnati.com:

Fourteen women went to Cincinnati landlord Henry E. Bailey seeking a secure place to live but instead Bailey sexually harassed them, federal authorities said. Over the course of two decades, Bailey would enter apartments without notice or permission, would touch the women and make unwanted sexual comments, would grant housing in exchange for sexual favors, or would take adverse action against tenants who rebuffed his sexual advances, the release said.

If you are wondering, cases of housing discrimination continue to pop up every few weeks here in the Boston area and across New England, though most get only modest attention in local media outlets.

Attorney General Martha Coakley recently went after landlords in Quincy and Arlington.

The Arlington landlord refused to rent to a tenant with a Section 8 voucher, while the Quincy landlord steer parents with children away to avoid having to spend the money to strip various units of lead paint.

Meanwhile, a particularly ugly case, involving outright racial discrimination, is now unfolding in rural Litchfield County in Connecticut. A lawsuit contends the Winchester Housing Authority, which controls Section 8 federal housing vouchers for 17 county towns, broke the law by effectively barring African-American and Hispanic tenants from applying for any of the more than 250 vouchers, according to The New York Times.

Among those turned away was a homeless mother of six who was seeking permanent shelter for her family.

Here's an excerpt from The Hartford Courant:

The housing center, a non-profit agency based in Hartford, says in the suit that Crystal Carter, described as an African-American single mother of six and a domestic violence survivor, asked for the group's help after she was denied the opportunity to apply for a Section 8 housing voucher. The federal government vouchers assist low-income families, the elderly and the disabled.

In 2011, Carter moved from Florida to Connecticut and stayed at a homeless shelter in southeastern Connecticut as she looked for a more permanent place to live, the lawsuit says. When she learned that the housing authority in Winchester had openings on its wait list, she tried to apply.

According to the lawsuit, Carter, who currently resides in Hartford, was told that the housing authority would not send applications to people who do not live in the 17 communities it serves. Those northwest towns span from Roxbury to Salisbury and Barkhamsted, which the suit describes as predominantly white communities.

The lawsuit also says Carter was told that Winchester was not on a bus line, that there were no jobs in Winchester, and that the area was in the "woods." The lawsuit says the housing authority suggested Carter apply to the housing programs in Bridgeport, New Haven or Torrington -  cities with a much larger minority population.

As it prepared the lawsuit, the fair housing center tested the housing authority's residency requirement by posing as residents of towns within the housing authority's service area, the court filing says. Those who said they lived in one of the 17 towns received applications for the voucher program without difficulty. Those who didn't reside in the area were prevented from applying.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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