Thursday, November 15, 2007


With the possible exception of Ron Paul and his supporters, there’s general agreement that law-abiding people are entitled to some form of shelter even if they can’t pay for it. There’s also agreement, though it’s less broad, that landlords shouldn't be able to discriminate against potential tenants who would be paying their rent with help from the government. Today, the SJC, in DiLiddo v. Oxford St. Realty, Inc., No. SJC-9962, determined that this right of tenants to be free from discrimination vastly restricts the ability of landlords to negotiate lease provisions with local housing authorities. In other words, if you’re going to be a lessor of residential property, you can’t reject a potential tenant because he or she will use a government voucher to pay rent, even if the governmental entity that will be paying that rent is insisting upon lease provisions with which you don’t agree.

Doesn’t it seem like there could be constitutional problems with this? The SJC seems to think so. Chief Justice Marshall specifically and prominently notes that “[t]he defendants make no challenge, constitutional or otherwise, to the validity of the statute . . . .” Did the defendants make a conscious decision to avoid Fifth Amendment arguments? Or did they just miss the issue? Or is there no issue?

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