Save Our State of Massachusetts
Massachusetts is notorious for having ridiculous laws for tenants so that landlords are endlessly abused and violated by unscrupulous tenants, and even when these absurd laws are followed to a tee, the courts will cater to the most criminal of tenants, time and time again. Anyone who thinks this is protecting good tenants, think again. Landlords are being chased out of business, or so gun shy from their bad experience that they will be overly cautious in who they rent to, if not doing everything in their power to not rent again, and endure, what has now become a predictable nightmare if you rent to the wrong person or people. All this does is make less rentals available, and force rents higher at a time when many who have lost their houses through no fault of their own are forced into the rental market until times get better.
Somerville, which has a ton of student apartments, has a local alderman who is trying to crack down on the students whose partying gets out of control, by holding the landlords accountable. Parents can’t even prevent what their own kids might get into at college, and now it will fall on landlords?
As though things weren’t bad enough, now the AG goes after landlords while public corruption is all but completely ignored. The following story is just the latest outrage in the absurd. Welcome to Massachusetts – SOS:
WORCESTER — For landlord Emile K. Akpaki and two of his tenants, it was a nightmare.
And rather than risk losing thousands more dollars, Mr. Akpaki said his lawyer advised him to agree to a settlement with the Attorney General’s office that accused him of failing to intervene in a dispute between his tenants.
A bank examiner and Worcester landlord originally from Togo, West Africa, Mr. Akpaki, 45, said the trouble started about a year ago with his tenants, Jordanna Craig and her husband, Andrew Craig.
The couple owed him one month’s rent of $850. When he said he would take them to court for it, Mr. Akpaki alleges Mrs. Craig made threats.
“I am black and I treated them (the Craigs) like my brothers and sisters,” Mr. Akpaki said. “I said, ‘Oh, my sister, what happened? You haven’t paid your rent.’ She said, ‘If you want your rent, I’m a broker, I will make your life miserable.’ ”
After living in his second-floor apartment on Elm Street for more than two years without any complaints, he alleges Mrs. Craig began making bogus complaints to the city’s health office — about mice in the apartment that did not exist, a so-called faulty dryer vent and a “hazardous” garbage disposal. Then, when those complaints were determined unfounded, Mr. Akpaki alleges the Craigs, who are African-American, turned to allegations of racial discrimination by third-floor tenants Tammy J. Desrosiers, 38, and her boyfriend, Richard J. LeBlanc, 35.
Mrs. Craig claimed the couple threw eggs at her car, called her offensive, derogatory ethnic slurs, and threatened and harassed her and her three children.
However, Mr. Akpaki said when he hurried to her apartment over the egg-throwing incident, there was no evidence it ever occurred. Moreover, the third-floor tenants denied any allegations of harassment and said it was the Craigs — not them — doing the harassing.
“There was no evidence,” a visibly upset Mr. Akpaki said yesterday. “I told the third-floor tenants if they were harassing (the Craigs), I don’t want this. I said, ‘If you don’t stop this, I will throw you out.’ And, I’m black. If I went to court to throw whites out, they would have sued. I talked to them and told them I don’t want it to happen again. A few days later, Mrs. Craig called me screaming that the third-floor tenants were coming to kill her. I drove over and I told her if anything like that happens to call police. She said. ‘No. I am going to defend myself.’ I called the police myself. The police said they (second- and third-floor tenants) are playing games and told them if they have to come here again, ‘One of you is going to jail.’ ”
Ms. Desrosiers and Mr. LeBlanc, a construction worker, said they feel Mrs. Craig targeted them when she overheard them saying they were going to tell Mr. Akpaki her husband was an alleged drug dealer. Ms. Desrosiers said she had known Mrs. Craig for years through a family member.
“I said I was going to tell the landlord, because I don’t want my house getting shot up because of drugs,” she said. “I filed a restraining order against her and then she turned around and filed one against me. Living with them was a nightmare. She moved out last year on my birthday and that was like my birthday present — to get rid of the burden.”
The Craigs moved out last August, then filed a complaint against Mr. Akpaki seeking $10,000 in damages. Their complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleged problems with their upstairs neighbors and also alleged that when they reported the behaviors to Mr. Akpaki on several occasions, he did nothing to prevent the alleged harassment from continuing.
The settlement agreement, filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office and announced yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court, says Mr. Akpaki violated state anti-discrimination laws by failing to take action against his third-floor tenants.
According to the MCAD, landlords in Massachusetts have an obligation to ensure that tenants live in housing free from acts of discriminatory conduct, and must take action to address discriminatory acts caused by other tenants.
In compliance with the settlement, Mr. Akpaki has already completed training on federal and Massachusetts fair housing law through MCAD. The other terms of the settlement require that he include “Equal Housing Opportunity” notifications in any rental advertisements for the next three years; notify the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division of any discrimination complaints made against him in the next three years; keep records for the next three years of all advertisements placed and all applications from prospective tenants; and pay $2,000 to the Craigs, with an additional $2,500 payment to the state suspended providing Mr. Akpaki continues to comply with the terms of the settlement.
“If I had the time, I would spend all my means to meet with the attorney general and the governor — I am a human being like everyone else,” Mr. Akpaki said. “The state is there to protect everybody and the state has the power. When the state stands against you, it has unlimited resources. I made the agreement to push this away, even though I am 100 percent sure I haven’t done anything to these people. You never know what a judge will say.”
Mr. Akpaki, who says he went to law school for five years in his native country, said he feels incompetence by the state ruled in this case, and said he’s wiser having gone through the ordeal.
“What I learned from this is when you have a problem, don’t trust the attorney general and don’t trust anybody,” he said. “As a landlord, if you have a problem with your tenant, just let it go. No one is going to help you. There is no help anywhere. The rent was $850 and all this cost me $4,000. The state is telling me, if someone threatens to hurt you physically or financially, just walk away.”
He added that there have been no problems between the tenants on the third floor and an African-American tenant on the first floor and another African-American family that moved into the Craig’s old apartment a year ago.