The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office has ordered a Newton landlord to pay $75,000 and de-lead his rental units after he allegedly violated state housing, lead paint, consumer protection and anti-discrimination laws.
Keith L. Miller, of Newton, owned and managed at least 24 residential units in Newton, Chelsea, Arlington and Brighton, according to a press release issued today by Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office.
“In a rental market as large as Greater Boston’s, it’s important that tenants know their rights and that landlords follow the law,” Coakley said in the press release. “This settlement demonstrates that there are serious consequences for landlords who would sacrifice public safety to save a few dollars.”
The consent judgement was handed down Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court, resolving a case the AG's office filed against Miller in February 2011. It is the largest fair housing settlement with a landlord that has been reached under Coakley's office, the press release said.
The original case against Miller alleged he skirted state lead paint laws by discriminating against tenants with children. In addition, the AG's office said Miller failed to notify tenants of potential lead paint in properties and made "misrepresentations" of lead paint in properties.
In February 2012, the AG's office expanded its complaint against Miller, the press release said:
The amended complaint alleged that Miller evicted, or threatened to evict, tenants with young children, rented apartments containing lead paint to tenants with young children, failed to remove lead hazards in those apartments, failed to provide proper notice of lead hazards to his tenants, made misrepresentations regarding the presence of lead paint in his apartments, and refused to repair unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
More recently, the AG’s Office obtained summary judgment for claims that Miller failed to abate lead hazards, failed to provide proper notice of lead hazards, and that he illegally attempted to charge tenants for water use. The court held that those violations constituted violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act as well.
Tuesday's judgement, which includes an agreement to dismiss outstanding claims against Miller, extends the injunction filed against Miller in March 2012 for five more years. This requires Miller to:
- Remove lead paint hazards from his units if children under six are residing in them
- Refrain from discriminating against tenants
- Not retaliate against tenants for complaining about unsafe conditions
- Notify the AG's office of any eviction proceedings he initiates against his tenants
According to the press release, the settlement also requires Miller to:
- De-lead a three-unit rental property in Arlington, upon the vacancy of the current tenants
- Obtain certificates of habitability prior to the commencement of any new tenancies
- Advise the Attorney General’s Office of newly-acquired properties and the lead status of those units
- Direct all employees engaged in the rental or management of his properties to receive fair housing training
- Provide the Attorney General’s Office with notice of claims of discrimination made against him