At this meeting, ACC had the pleasure of having Margaret Curran of the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center give a presentation about housing rights! Margaret talked about the rights that people are guaranteed by the government when it comes to housing, and about how the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center helps people assert their housing rights and overcome housing discrimination.
The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center provides legal help to people who are facing housing discrimination. They hear people’s complaints, and investigate them, and if there is evidence of discrimination legal representation is provided free of charge. In order to investigate if a landlord is being discriminatory, “testers” from the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center will attempt to rent an apartment from the landlord in question to determine if they discriminate when deciding who to rent apartments to.
Margaret explained that there are certain categories that are protected under state and/or federal law, and that landlords cannot refuse to rent housing to people in these categories based on the fact that they are in the category. In Massachusetts, the protected categories include race, color, national origin, sex, families with children, disability, marital status, ancestry, public assistance, housing subsidies/rental assistance, and genetic.
So, for instance, if a landlord refused to rent an apartment to someone because the person had a Section 8 housing voucher, the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center would give the person free legal advice and representation so that they are able to get into the housing. Or, if a landlord says that they will not rent to a disabled person because their building is not equipped for their needs, legally the landlord is required to modify the building so that it will fit the person’s needs, and the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center will legally help with this. Or, if a landlord is attempting to evict a tenant because the police are called to the apartment regularly due to domestic violence, the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center will legally advocate for the tenant so that they are able to stay in their apartment. Additionally, if once a person gets into an apartment with the help of the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center, the landlord raises the rent out of retaliation, the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center will help the person legally to assure that their rent is not raised.
If you or someone you know thinks that you could benefit from the services of the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center, call (413) 539-9796, or go to http://www.massfairhousing.org. The office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and they are located at 7 Suffolk St # 401, Holyoke, MA 01040.