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Newton man to pay $75,000 to settle attorney general's housing suit

Posted by Brock Parker  February 27, 2013 03:00 PM

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A Boston area property owner who had been accused of retaliatory practices against tenants with young children has settled the case and will pay $75,000 and delead three rental units in Arlington.

Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office announced the settlement with Keith L. Miller, of Newton, on Wednesday after the agreement was entered in Suffolk Superior Court Tuesday.

Miller, a legal malpractice lawyer in Boston who has owned and managed rental units in Chelsea, Newton, Arlington and Brighton, will pay the largest fair housing settlement during Coakley’s tenure as attorney general, her office said Wednesday.

As part of the settlement, the outstanding discrimination and retaliation claims against Miller have been dismissed, according to the agreement.

Miller’s attorney Mark Stopa said the settlement relates to failure of Miller to do some administrative duties, such as supplying all the required information to his tenants about lead paint in his properties, though Stopa said Miller did tell tenants about the lead paint.

“It was an innocent oversight on some paperwork,” Stopa said.

Coakley’s office filed a lawsuit against Miller in February 2011 alleging he moved to evict tenants on Bacon Street in Newton when they had newborn children because he was obligated to delead their apartments.

State law requires landlords to abate lead paint hazards in apartments where children under the age of six reside.

According to the attorney general’s office, Miller rented apartments containing lead paint to tenants with young children, refused to repair unsafe and unsanitary conditions and retaliated against tenants when they reported suspected violations to city and state officials. In one instance after an Hispanic tenant at one of Miller’s apartment’s on Park Street in Chelsea requested a health code inspection, Miller allegedly made inquires and made threatening comments about the tenant’s immigration status, according to the lawsuit.

Suffolk Superior Court issued an injunction against Miller last year ordering him to stop retaliating against his tenants for complaining about unsafe conditions and to refrain from discriminating against tenants with young children. Late last year the court also issued a summary judgment that Miller failed to abate lead hazards and failed to provide proper notice of lead hazards in violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

In addition to the $75,000 payment under the settlement, the preliminary injunction against Miller has been extended for five additional years and the outstanding claims against him have been dismissed, according to Coakley’s office. The settlement also requires Miller to delead a three-unit rental property in Arlington upon the vacancy of the current tenants and he must advise the attorney general’s office of newly-acquired properties, and the lead status of those units.

--Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com

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