Legal Reasons to Refuse to Rent

A landlord has the right to refuse to rent to a prospective tenant based on a poor credit history or insufficient income to reasonably cover the cost of the rent. However, he may opt to consider a co-signer for such a tenant if he feels otherwise comfortable in establishing the tenancy.

Families with children may be legally denied tenancy in an owner-occupied two-family house, or in a two or three family house in which one of the apartments is occupied by an elderly or infirm person for whom the presence of children constitutes a hardship.2

Illegal Reasons to Refuse to Rent

In Massachusetts, it is illegal to discriminate against a tenant based on any of the following “protected classes”: 3

  • Physical or mental disability or handicap
  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion and creed
  • Age (except minors)
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Familial status (including families with children and pregnant women)
  • Ancestry
  • Marital status
  • Veteran status and/or member of armed services
  • Source of income, such as public assistance, including Section 8

As of July 1, 2012 it is also illegal to discriminate in housing on the basis of gender identity. Some limited exemptions exist in the federal and state laws concerning discrimination. For more information, contact the following agencies.

Filing a Complaint

Discrimination complaints can be pursued at:

Boston Fair Housing Commission

Complaints regarding alleged discrimination in the sale or rental of housing in Boston can be filed here.
File a Complaint

Fair Housing Commission
Boston City Hall, Room 966
Boston, MA 02201

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

Complaints regarding alleged discrimination toward housing (advertising, public hosuing, private realtors, and landlords) in MA can be filed here. All complaints made to MCAD must be made within 300 days of alleged act of discrimination.
File a Complaint

MA Commission Against Discrimination
Boston Office
1 Ashburton Place, Room 601
Bostonm MA 02108

Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Department of Housing and Urban Development

Complaints regarding alleged discrimination toward housing in MA can be filed here. You may also call 1-800-669-9777 with your complaint. 
File a Complaint

Boston Regional Office
Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Federal Building
10 Causeway Street, Room 321
Boston, MA 02222

2. G.L.c. 151b, §4(7)(11)
3. G.L.c 151B