Fair housing case settled; HUD issues penalties.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a $90,000 conciliation agreement involving Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, the law firm of Bowditch & Dewey LLP and the seller of a home in Worcester, settling allegations they violated the Fair Housing Act by preventing the sale of a house to be used as a group home for people with disabilities.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in rental or sales transactions based on disability, including preventing a home from being sold because the home is going to be used by people with disabilities.
According to HUD, the prospective buyer planned to rent the house to a nonprofit organization that provides supportive housing for people with disabilities.
When Erwin Miller, the executor of the estate, learned the house would be used as a rental property, he agreed to sell the home on the condition a restrictive covenant was attached to the property.
Mr. Miller stated in an email, "If they rent to a responsible family it is okay, BUT no unrelated individuals, students, dorm! Neighbors will fight this," according to press release from HUD.
Donna Truex, Miller's lawyer from Bowditch & Dewey LLP, recorded a restrictive covenant prohibiting the use of the house as a group home for disabled people.
Mr. Miller's real estate agent, an independent contractor associated with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, emailed the restrictive covenant to the prospective buyer's sales agent, prompting the buyer to withdraw from the sale.
The buyer and his agent subsequently filed a complaint with HUD, alleging the restrictive covenant.
After receiving the complaint, HUD filed its own secretary-initiated housing discrimination complaint alleging that the actions of the seller, real estate agent Maureen Kelleher, and attorney Donna Truex violated the Fair Housing Act.
Under the terms of the agreement, which was negotiated by HUD's regional counsel in Boston, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and Bowditch & Dewey will each pay $39,000 to the prospective buyer and $6,000 to his sales agent.
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and Bowditch & Dewey have been ordered to provide their employees with fair housing training.
In addition, Bowditch & Dewey has been ordered to donate 100 hours of free legal services directly related to fair housing and 100 hours of free legal services directly related to the promotion of disability rights.
Contact Craig S. Semon at firstname.lastname@example.org
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Apr 17, 2013|
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