Common Question on Landlord/Tenant Issues answered by the staff of the MAR Legal Hotline.
Q: The landlord that I represent has stated that he will not accept a tenant application from a tenant who has a credit score below 450. I have received an application from a tenant who is a recipient of Section 8 subsidy who has a credit score of 400. Must the landlord accept this applicant, since he is a recipient of a public subsidy?
A: Prospective tenants who receive rental assistance are a protected class under state law, Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 151B and, as such, it is illegal to discriminate based on the fact that he or she has a Section 8 certificate or voucher. Applicants may not be rejected solely because they are subsidy recipients, however, a landlord is otherwise free to enforce legitimate, non-discriminatory screening criteria and deny applicants who do not meet that criteria. Poor credit is considered an appropriate reason for rejection. Other examples include a criminal record and a lack of references. Keep in mind, though, that a screening policy of this type must be followed consistently without arbitrary waivers. Deviation from the criteria set by the landlord could be viewed as a form of discrimination against subsidy recipients and other members of protected classes.