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Landlord Must Issue Warning to Others on Craigslist

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a settlement between her office and a Revere, Massachusetts landlord over allegations that his rental ad in Craigslist violated state discrimination statutes. judge

This judgment is the result of a continuing statewide investigation by the Attorney General Office into reports of widespread discriminatory housing advertisements on the Internet.

As more families face tough financial times and have no choice but to rent, landlords and real estate professionals must recognize that the rental market is a regulated industry, said Attorney General Coakley. While we hope that this enforcement initiative will have a deterrent effect, our office will continue to monitor Craigslist.

The Attorney General Office has settled 20 similar cases and filed six other complaints against landlords and real estate agents across the Commonwealth accused of violating state anti-discrimination laws on Craigslist.

In this case, the landlord used Craiglist to advertise a unit for rent in Revere, stating no Section 8. The Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits landlords and others involved in property rentals from discriminating against people who use state or federal housing subsidies to pay for all or a portion of their rent.

The settlement requires the landlord attend trainings on state and federal fair housing laws. He has also agreed to place “Equal Housing Opportunity” in any future rental property ads. And, in an effort to increase awareness of this important issue, the landlord is required to place postings on Craigslist informing other Craigslist users that the Attorney General monitors Craigslist for discriminatory advertising and that it is against Massachusetts law to state a discriminatory preference against recipients of housing assistance subsidies.

He will also pay $750 to a local charity that provides legal services to poor and low-income persons in housing and a variety of areas.See Fair Housing “Zero-Tolerance” Policy Netting Huge Awards Against Landlords.

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  • Doretha

    Well that is discrimination I love section 8 the name of the game is to keep income coming no matter which way its paid.

  • Landlord in FL

    I’m shocked by this article…I have had Section 8 tenants from time to time and for the most part had good experiences, but my latest experience caused me not to want to accept Section 8 for any future tenants. I signed a voucher and a lease, completed all the paperwork on my end, but then Section 8 took over two months to complete their inspection and paperwork and so I did not get a rent check during that whole time. In the end, they screwed me on the amount of rent because they made errors so I got far less rent than I would have if I had rented to another tenant not on this program…I never got an apology for the numerous errors they made, the time they took, the discrepancy in the original rental amount they had me sign and accept in writing and in the end I got FAR LESS rent and their attitude was “too bad, this is the way it is…it’s your fault for accepting these tenants!!” Wouldn’t that be grounds for not working with this program? C’mon!!

  • BB

    This is the most rediculous thing I have heard in a long time. You have to be specially qualified to rent to section 8. If you are not qualified to rent to them, you should be able to advertise that so you are not receiving calls from potential renters that you can’t rent to. I suppose the next step for the attorney general is to say every rental property must be prequlified for section 8 housing. Martha Coakley needs to be voted out.

  • Frank C

    In reguard to the article entitled “Landlord Slapped With Fine Over Craigslist Ad”, What if a landlord did not want to deal with the government run Section 8 program?

    I have heard plenty of horror stories that were told about section 8.
    As a landlord I just don’t want the extra headaches and paper work that go with section 8. I just want to keep things simple!!!!

    What can I do to avoid section 8 problems?

  • Hi,
    In general, my definition of a good tenant is one that pays in full and on time; no drugs or violence; and doesn’t tear up the property or bother the neighbors. I rented to a Section 8 tenant once, and my experience is unique. First, to pass the Section 8 inspection, I spent about $250. and a day of labor for two people — my husband and me. It was a clean and decent one bedroom apartment, but there were several minor things that had to be corrected before it passed, and so we did them.

    My tenant had been homeless for a year, collected medical disability, and had been on the Section 8 waiting list all that time. My tenant was nice and quiet, until he wasn’t. After he was there for about six months, he apparently burned the building down. He was charged and convicted of arson.

    I never learned the whole story. I don’t know whether it was a domestic argument that got out of hand or whether he was cooking drugs. I thought it was a complete accident until I saw the remains of a propane tank, like you use for a gas grill, in what was left of the bedroom.

    During his prosecution I learned from the Assistant State Attorney that he was well known to their office and law enforcement. My mistake for making the assumption that because he was Section 8 eligible he had been thoroughly background checked.

    He was first sentenced to probation, but then violated the terms. I believe he is now serving a four year prison sentence. I was insured, and no one was hurt. I didn’t even try to get restitution. Before his sentencing, and while the tenant was pleading not guilty, the tenant’s mother called me and asked if I would give him a reference. I told her, no problem, I’ll say he was nice and quiet, but then he burned the building down.

  • Darrin (Investor/Landlord/Realtor)

    The law does not say that you are required to rent to Section 8 tenants. The law just says that it is discriminatory to “advertise” that you will not accept certain protected categories of tenants. The decision as to who you ultimately decide to rent to is still yours to make. And if you provide a reason as to why a particular tenant was not selected, you would probably want to provide a reason that is consistent with the fair housing laws as well.

  • Chris U

    There are very clearly established anti-discriminatory rental guidelines in each state. You can’t say “young renters not welcome” just like you can’t say “no Blacks please!”. There are very good reasons for these guidelines. Fortunately (or unfortunately) you can still exercise your preference in renting as long as you can show it is not contrary to any anti-discriminatory statutes.

    You can legally “discriminate” based on income depending on what/how you base your decision. I’ll choose someone making $50K a year over someone making $30K a year (other things being equal) for a dwelling rentig for $2000/month. It is an economic decision, not one based on status.

    You can choose to rent to a non-Section 8 tenant for a few $$ less than a section 8 tenant because you judge the one of your choice to have better housekeeping habits based on your site visit, or to be potentially better able to handle the rent in a timely manner but not for section 8 status or not.

    Although, sad to say, some Housing Choice program (“Section 8”) agencies are very poorly run with exasperating degree of bureaucracy but by and large section 8 status makes no big difference if you are a responsible and responsive landlord and you have a responsible tenant. I’ve had excellent section 8 tenants and I’ve had lousy ones. Same thing applies to non-section 8. A good landlord/tenant combo can make section 8 a smooth experience. My opinion.

  • Lisa Everingham

    In Ohio, it is legal to refuse vouchers as payment for rent. So in answer to Frank C, you should move to Ohio!

  • CD

    Just don’t mention section 8 in your ads. I tell people that I never got involved with the program. Just not to familiar with it.

  • doug zimmardi

    This is the biggest … i have ever heard. It is your home not the governments, you should be allowed to rent to whomever you feel most comfortable living in your home. This is what happens when we let the liberals have their way… we need no big government in our lives.

  • mshouston34

    From my experience with Section 8, it has actually been better than with my non-Section 8 tenants and processes. You go through the same screening procedure as with any rental. You do not have to accept the first Section-8 prospect that speaks to you just as you do not have to the first non-Section 8 prospect that speaks to you. Also, the Section-8 payments are directly deposited into my account so I don’t have to worry about the check being late, delayed, etc…

    Those are just my thoughts. You are not required to accept them as your own.

  • Sophia

    If you have a set WRITTEN-has to be to prove you are treating everyone fair- criteria for renting make the criteria fit the kind of tenent you want.

    Go to MrLANDLORD.com for additional information. Great site for landlords.

  • d knapp

    frank c.,

    advertising is highly regulated and penalized, as is rental discrimination, but the law as i understand it leaves rental decision-making to the owner/rep. based on legal criteria.

    generally, i have found that applicants that are applying for housing with section 8 assistance do not meet with my criteria for credit score, income, employment, references, etc.

    note also that this was a mass. state statute that was cited, not the federal housing act. check with your state law to verify if you must avoid using federal or state financial assistance in your advertising or tenant selection criteria.

    d

  • Section 8 -NOT a good idea

    Also in California. You can refuse to take sec 8 BUT ONLY if there are no other existing sec 8 occupants in the building. I had taken it, and was very relieved when the last sec 8 tenant moved out. Its a royal pain, the gov does not pay enough always way below market rent and in addition to having the County and City govs harass you, you get the FEDS.

  • I. C. Howe-Cheatham

    My first and only experience with the San Bernardino Housing Authority, California [section 8] has not been good. They have reduced the rent on our agreement 3 times in the last year, from $720 to $600 citing “local market conditions and the current status of federal funding”. I recently rented a similar home in the same community for $850.
    Last years inspection included replacing decking around the spa, painting the exterior trim, and interior ceilings.
    This years inspection was a no-show. They called the tenant to cancel at 10am, never called the landlord.
    I keep a spreadsheet on all my rentals and I know who is the biggest problem that needs to go bye-bye.

  • Paul Storberg

    I have never had a section 8 applicant that had good credit etc, see where Im going.

  • Ohio Landlord

    Section 8 is a two-edged sword. In the old days if a tenant destroyed a unit S8 would pau for the repairs. Today, if a tenant breaks something the landlord can be reported by the tenant to the S8 inspector. If the inspector orders a repair (at the landlord expense) a time limit for completion is imposed. If the repair is not completes in the time frame S8 can be abated.

    In the old day sof abatement S8 would hold the abated money until the repair is completed and send you a fat check. Not anymore. Once the rent is abated the landlord does not get it back.

    In the S8 world the tenannt has all the rights. The tennat can also obtain free legal services if needed for a eveiction process. I know of a landlord here who had to wait more than a year for an eviction due to ridiculous procedure mishaps such as taping a three-day notice to the door instead of physically handing it to the tenant. Hence, the court dismissed and had to start anew.

    S8 used to be a good program until Bush cut it to the core. Under Clinton our rents were twice what they were under Bush. The rents paid today are not enough for the headache of a bad tenant.

  • zel

    i have had one tenant for five years that has section 8 and she is better then any non section 8 tenant i have every had in the past this is an upscale neighborhood and she is truly a good tenant.When another unit became vacant, that was not section eight i thought i would try it again and that was when i decide oh no it took only two months to decide she had to go she did not pay her part and it cost me money to evict her and that was when i decide it would not happen again so i have been on both side of the fence it does depend on you and how you screen and do credit check, ref, etc. and yes they do pay below market and that was another reason i choose not to go that route a second time when you have a tenant section 8 or not that does not pay they all make bad tenants

  • zel

    i have had one tenant for five years that has section 8 and she is better then any non section 8 tenant i have every had in the past this is an upscale neighborhood and she is truly a good tenant.When another unit became vacant, that was not section eight i thought i would try it again and that was when i decide oh no it took only two months to decide she had to go she did not pay her part and it cost me money to evict her and that was when i decide it would not happen again so i have been on both side of the fence it does depend on you and how you screen and do credit check, ref, etc. and yes they do pay below market and that was another reason i choose not to go that route a second time when you have a tenant section 8 or not that do not pay they all make bad tenants

  • Joseph

    The landlord should have know better not to state “No Section 8” If he did not want to rent to a section 8 just don’t. Just don’t state it in the ad. And I thought that Calf. was the only state that always sides on behalf of the tenant. There are more laws that protect the tenant than there are that protect the money hunger landlord.

  • Sharon Z

    I have had Section 8 tenants and except for one very good. Problem is if they are paying a share of the rent and don’t pay, if you file in Court to make them pay, the State stops paying the minute you file. The trump card to get the tenant to pay is that if you file in Court for them not paying, they will get bumped from the system and perhaps never get Section 8 again. Also, if the Tenant loses the Section 8 eligibility, you are going to have a tenant who can’t pay or who won’t because they often have never had to pay rent themselves before, at least that is true for the few tenants I have had so far. I will still take Section 8 tenants (we don’t have to in VT) and always have, for one because I think it is right and second (or maybe first), I like that most of the rent is paid by the State and is automatically deposited in my bank account.

  • Chris U

    doug zimmardi said:
    “This is the biggest … i have ever heard. It is your home not the governments, you should be allowed to rent to whomever you feel most comfortable living in your home. This is what happens when we let the liberals have their way… we need no big government in our lives”.

    To Doug Zimmardi:
    This is a business (financial & economic) discussion not one of political ideology. It doesn’t help to mix the two. What has “liberal” or tea party-ist got to do with a Fed govt bureaucracy that has spanned mostly republican presidencies and been expanded under them? The govt should get involved in establishing certain standards of decency otherwise this can turn into a medieval system in a hurry. The govt does not dictate who you can welcome into your primary residence but it is good govt – not big or small govt – to assure equal treatment under the law for all citizens.

    “Section 8” is largely an inefficient, poorly-administered Fed govt program through proxy agencies saddled with incompetence and paying little attention to customer satisfaction. They mostly leave both customers (tenants and landlords) dissatisfied and get to still keep their jobs. Where else but in a govt protected job can you upset the customer most of the times and still have them coming back? Again it is a horribly administered program but it is not the tenant’s fault. My feeling is that the program as we know it will collapse under its own weight.

    I had failed a section 8 re-inspection because of lightbulbs in the closet not having globes over them and loose caulk over the vanity. I asked the inspector to stand by while I corrected it but she promised to come back on Monday (this was on a Thursday) if I let her know that it is done. I tried numerous times and let many voicemails in order to get the items reinspected but to no avail. A week later I received the followup letter which I immediately completed and faxed back.

    Long story short, they re-inspected 9 months later (their fault, not mine) and refused to pay me for all those months. I talked to many people up and down their chain and might have as well been talking to a pillar. Once I had my attorney write them a letter I got a call from the mighty Section 8 and my full money followed about 2 weeks later. All the while I was trying to talk to the S8 staff, they insisted that they were yearning to improve their level of customer satisfaction, yet they couldn’t lift a finger to help me right under their noses get paid for services I had faithfully provided. Ironic huh?

  • Roger from NH

    Only in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts where landlords have right. She’s one of the reasons people are leaving that state!

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  • Kathy Bauer

    I live in Southern California. There was an article in the local Apartment Owner’s magazine regarding a similar case. One of the findings in that case was that, since the housing department did not pay the rent money directly to the tenant but paid it directly to the landlord, that discrimination was not a factor in the case.

    Also, be very, very, very careful about Section 8 having access to any of your bank accounts through Direct Deposit. I have a terrible story about inspections/inspectors/staffers not reinspecting a property because a stove hood fan was silent and they couldn’t hear it. Section 8 “abated” my rent for over a year while I was attempting to have the inspector reinspect the premises.
    They not only abated the rent during that time, they also said they had overpaid me and took the “overpayment” money back out of the direct deposit account!!!
    I never got any of the money back (to the tune of multiple thousands of dollars.) Plus, the tenant completely tore the residence apart and went “underground” with no way to contact her. I “inherited” the tenant from the prior owner. There was no security deposit. I swore off Section 8.

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