Discrimination & Tenant’s Rights

When is it discrimination?

Housing discrimination is illegal in Massachusetts. It is against the law to refuse housing to any individual on the basis of age, blindness, children, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, or receipt of public assistance. The City of Cambridge has added to that list color, disability, sexual orientation, family status, military status, or source of income.

What you can do about discrimination

Housing discrimination is illegal in Massachusetts. If you feel you have been refused housing because of discrimination, you can find support among the legal resources below. To discourage others from renting from this landlord, you can share your experiences with Tasha Coppett, Assistant Director of the MIT Off-Campus Housing Service, (617) 253-4449, W59-200. 

When a landlord says “No students!”

Generations of young people fond of loud music and late-night parties have made some landlords wary of renting to students. Unfortunately, it is not illegal to discriminate against students because of their age, nor is it illegal to refuse to rent to students in general.

Your legal rights as a tenant

To learn more about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, visit these pages:
Housing Code Checklist
Lease Information

Tenant’s Rights Organizations

Cambridge Human Rights Commission
51 Inman Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 349-4396

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Opens in new window
One Ashburton Place - Room 601
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 994-6000

Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
Boston Regional Office, O’Neil Federal Building, Room 321
10 Causeway Street
Boston, MA 02222-1092
(617) 565-5304

Boston Center for Independent Living
95 Berkeley Street #206
Boston, Massachusetts 02116
(617) 338-6665

Boston Mayor’s Office for Fair Housing
(617) 725-4408

Disability Law Center
11 Beacon Street #925
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 723-8455

National Consumer Law Center
77 Summer Street
Boston, MA 02110
(617) 542-8010

Legal Resources

A number of agencies in the Cambridge/Boston area provide free or affordable legal assistance to individuals with low incomes.

Boston Rental Housing Resource Center Opens in new window
(617) 635-RENT
Cambridge Consumers Council  Opens in new window
(617) 349-6150
Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program Opens in new window
(617) 654-0400
Cambridge/Somerville Legal Services
432 Columbia Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
(617) 494-1800

Community Legal Services and Counseling Center
1 West Street
Cambridge, MA 02141
(617) 661-1010 
Greater Boston Legal Services Opens in new window
197 Friend Street
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 371-1234, (800) 323-3205
60 Gore Street #3
Cambridge MA 02141
(617) 603-2700

Harvard Legal Aid Bureau Opens in new window
1151 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 495-4408 
Volunteer Lawyers Project Opens in new window
29 Temple Place
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 423-0648
Cambridge Dispute Settlement Center
872 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 876-5376
Boston Housing Court Opens in new window
(617) 788-8485

Legal resources online  Opens in new window
NoLo—Your Legal Companion Opens in new window
Mass Opens in new window
MassLegalHelp Opens in new window
Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs Opens in new window
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office Opens in new window
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Opens in new window
State of Massachusetts Complaint & Mediation Services Opens in new window
Mass Legal Services Opens in new window
Law Guru Opens in new window
Boston Bar Association Opens in new window
Citizen Information Service Opens in new window

Small Claims Court Opens in new window

Small Claims Court is a “people's court” designed to settle everyday consumer disputes in Massachusetts. Small Claims Court is intended to be informal and inexpensive, a court where the average citizen can present his or her case and receive a fast and fair hearing. In Small Claims Court, you do not have to have a lawyer to file a lawsuit.

Once the claim is filed, the Clerk of Courts will notify the defending party of the hearing date. In Cambridge, there is usually a five- to six-week wait between the filing of the claim and the scheduling of the hearing. In Boston, this could take up to one year.

Contact the District Court in your community for further information on your local Small Claims Court. MIT Campus Police can also offer advice and assistance in preparation of your claim.

Small Claims Courts in surrounding communities:

Boston (617) 725-8000
Brighton/Allston (617) 782-6521 ext. 208
Brookline (617) 232- 4660 ext. 12
Cambridge/Arlington/Belmont (617) 494-4315 ext. 4315
Malden/Medford (781) 322-7500 ext. 119, 120
Newton (617) 244-3600 ext. 315
Somerville (617) 666-8000 ext. 748, 768, 770
Waltham/Watertown (781) 894-4500 ext. 251

Lawyer referrals

The Boston Bar Association  Opens in new window
Lawyer Referral Service
16 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 742-0625

The National Lawyers Guild Referral Service
14 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 227-7008