Haverhill Real Estate Company Fined $70,000 in Disability Discrimination Case

Maura Healey

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

A Haverhill-based real estate company has agreed to pay up to $70,000 to resolve allegations that it failed to accommodate two tenants with disabilities at an Andover apartment complex it formerly owned.

In a settlement filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Andover Portland Avenue Associates, LLC will pay two tenants of Casco Crossing apartment complex $20,000 each and pay $15,000 to the state to resolve allegations the company violated state anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, according to Attorney General Maura Healey. Another $15,000 payment to the state was suspended so long as Andover Portland complies with other provisions of the settlement. It also resolves claims that the company failed to design and construct the apartment complex to meet accessibility standards required by law.

In 2014, the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board found the 96-unit Casco Crossing did not comply with building code accessibility requirements. Andover Portland owned and operated the apartment complex until May 2015.

“People with disabilities regularly face barriers to housing choice and opportunity,” Healey said. “This settlement demonstrates our continued commitment to enforcing our fair housing laws to ensure that property owners and managers work with tenants with disabilities.”

The court complaint alleged one tenant requested several accommodations, including a wheelchair ramp to access the building, grab bars in the bathroom, a handicap-accessible toilet and parking, among other things. Andover Portland allegedly failed, in each instance, to “engage in an interactive dialogue and unreasonably refused to provide the modifications or accommodations.”

It also allegedly ignored and failed to address requests from the mother of another tenant with several disabilities for “reasonable” modifications, including an automatic building door opener for wheelchair access and “prompt removal of ice from the sidewalks in the winter.”

The tenants claimed they suffered emotional distress, were unable to access common areas and parts of their apartments, and incurred certain additional expenses.

“Andover Portland is also required to develop a comprehensive fair housing policy, to train all of its staff on federal and state housing laws, and to hire a consultant who specializes in architectural access and compliance with the building code’s accessibility regulations for all new residential property construction or renovation undertaken in Massachusetts,” Healey’s statement added.

Public records list Andover Portland Avenue Associates, its resident agent Matthew E. Gardner and manager King H. Weinstein, with principal offices at 9 Travers St., Haverhill.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Shaneka Louise Davis and paralegal Bethany Brown of Healey’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from John Malone, deputy director of the Victim Compensation Division; Amy Crafts, deputy chief of the False Claims Division;  Shannon Roark of the Civil Investigation Division; and Healey’s Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau chief, Jonathan Miller.

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