Landlord’s reason for discrimination based on lead paint removal cost

Property owners in Watertown, Massachusetts, who allegedly refused rental applications from prospective tenants with young children to avoid costly lead paint removal, have been ordered to receive fair-housing training and to perform the necessary de-leading as required by law.

Christopher and Elizabeth Molle, of The Gateway Real Estate Group Inc., and two agents were named in the lawsuit filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office on April 6. The filing alleges that the individuals rejected applications or refused to show rental units on at least three occasions.

The discriminating practice illegally protected the property owners from having to perform lead paint removal required by state law when children under six-years'-old live a the unit.

"The commonwealth's lead paint law protects children from the damaging effects of lead, which include impaired development, learning difficulties, and behavior problems," Coakley said in an official statement. "It is imperative that families with children are able to find lead-safe housing in the commonwealth."

The consent judgment entered by Judge Paul E. Troy resolves allegations against the Molles, but litigation against Gateway and its agents is ongoing, the Watertown Patch reports. The Attorney General’s Office is seeking damages for the victims, civil penalties and attorneys’ fees, according to the paper.