Sides settle in E. Cottage St. case on rental discrimination

Landlords of an East Cottage Street three-decker have settled discrimination allegations leveled by Attorney General Martha Coakley, who claimed they attempted to avoid a responsibility to remove lead paint and refused to rent to families with small children.

The allegations stem from a complaint filed with the Boston Fair Housing Commission in October 2011. According to the complaint, Alojzy Jackiewicz and Celine Puszko, who jointly own the three-family home at 261 East Cottage St., placed an ad on Craigslist.com to rent the third floor apartment.

When a man with two children, ages 7 years and 13 months, and his girlfriend called to rent it, Puszko allegedly said she could not rent the apartment to anyone with a six-month-old child or under because she did not believe the place had been de-leaded. It is against state law to discriminate against an applicant with children or if the landlord must de-lead the property.

The pair were not allowed to see the apartment and were denied the chance to apply for the place, according to the complaint.

In a filing at the Suffolk County Courthouse, the complainants also claims that Puszko posted a Craigslist.com ad stating that the owners did not accept applicants with affordable housing vouchers. Discriminating against Section 8 recipients is also against the law.

The Boston Fair Housing Commission issued a “probable cause” determination last February, and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination later concurred.

The complaint was filed in Suffolk Superior Court on June 22.

Jackiewicz, who lives in the building, and Puszko, who lives in Stoughton, were unavailable for comment.

Because it is a civil case, there was no admission of wrongdoing in the final judgment, which Jackiewicz and Puszko signed, and which was filed in court on last week. Judge D. Lloyd MacDonald presided over the case.

Jackiewicz and Puszko agreed that Puszko would attend training on federal and state fair housing laws and that they would pay $1,000 to the family that launched the complaint. A payment of a $2,000 penalty is suspended pending their compliance with the final judgment.

Other terms of the agreement include a pledge that any ads over the next two years carry an “Equal Housing Opportunity” logo and that for the next three years, the landlords will notify in writing any complaints or allegations they receive that they violated anti-discrimination laws.

They will also have to open an escrow account, and deposit $300 a month until the total reaches $10,000, for the purposes of de-leading at least one of the three apartments.

“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 a statement. “By enforcing this law our office works to ensure that families with children are able to find lead-safe housing within the Commonwealth.”