5 Biggest Mistakes Landlords Make #4: Unknowingly Discriminating Against Children

Many  Massachusetts Landlords know about the law ( MGL 111 s. 189A-199B etc) that prohibit the renting of a lead-paint apartment to a family with a child under six years old. What most landlords don’t know is that it is illegal to REFUSE renting to a family with a child!

Specifically, MGL 151B s. 4(11) provides:

..It Shall be illegal for the owner, sublessees, real estate broker…to refuse to rent or lease or sell or otherwise to deny to or withhold from any person [an apartment] because such person has a child or children….

A head scratcher isn’t it? On their face, the laws contradict each other….RIGHT?  The SJC however, has ruled that the laws do not contradict each other, but rather that they work in tandem. Not only are you subject to criminal liability for renting to a child with lead-based paint in your unit, but you are prohibited from refusing to rent to them! If you know your apartment has lead paint, you advertise, and you are approached by a family with children, you can not refuse renting to them! What does this translate into? It means that you have to de-lead the unit which can cost into the tens of thousands of dollars, just to accommodate the under-6 year old!

What to take away from all of this: You can not advertise online or in print in any way that discriminates against renting to children. Logically, this would include provisions in your ad that state “This apartment has lead paint” or something along the lines of “Hey.. If you have a child under six.. there’s no way I’m renting to you!” Take heed, as even the best of us in the rental industry have fallen victim to this legislative conundrum.


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