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Renters with children. Know your rights.

Posted by Rona Fischman  August 8, 2012 02:06 PM

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We are in the heart of rental season. Rentals aren’t just for students. Families rent, too, or at least try to. Today, I republish information from Attorney Richard D. Vetstein about family-unfriendly landlords.

In 2011, the Attorney General sued a Metro-Boston landlord for evicting or threatened to evict tenants with young children, renting apartments containing lead paint to tenants with young children, failing to abate lead hazards in those apartments, failing to provide proper notice of lead hazards to his tenants, and making misrepresentations regarding the presence of lead paint in his apartments. The complaint further alleges that the landlord retaliated against tenants when they reported him for violations of the law.

Unfortunately, many Greater Boston landlords aren’t prosecuted by the AG’s office and are allowed to impose family unfriendly and unlawful housing practices like advertising that “Unit Not Deleaded.” The ad, while albeit truthful, it might as well read “Children Under 6 Not Wanted.”

Under the Massachusetts Lead Paint Law, whenever a child under six years of age comes to live in a rental property, the property owner has a responsibility to discover whether there is any lead paint on the property and to de-lead to protect the young children living there. A property owner or real estate agent cannot get around the legal requirements to disclose information about known lead hazards simply by refusing to rent to families with young children.

They also cannot refuse to renew the lease of a pregnant woman or a family with young children just because a property may contain lead hazards. Furthermore, property owners cannot refuse to rent simply because they do not want to spend the money to de-lead the property. Any of these acts is a violation of the Lead Law, the Consumer Protection Act, and various Massachusetts anti-discrimination statutes that can have serious penalties for a property owner or real estate agent.

The law is somewhat conflicting regarding landlords for owner occupied two family homes. Chapter 151B, the state anti-discrimination law, exempts owner occupied two family homes from the prohibition of discrimination against children. However, there is no such exemption written into the lead paint law. So if a child is born into an owner occupied 2 family, it must be de-leaded. Of course, the safest practice is not to discriminate against tenants with children at all.

Have you ever thought you were a victim of rental discrimination? Landlords, how do you handle renting to families?

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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