Massachusetts AG Maura Healey sues landlord, claims he harassed tenants, threatened to report them to ICE for reporting dangerous, unsanitary living conditions

By Jackson Cote  | March 17, 2021

A Massachusetts landlord is being sued by the state over claims he physically and verbally harassed his tenants and threatened to report them to the federal government for deportation to keep them from speaking up against dangerous and unsanitary living conditions.

The lawsuit filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office Tuesday accuses She Ling Wang, a landlord in Lynn, of harassing, intimidating and threatening Latinx tenants and their families to prevent them from addressing hazardous conditions in their apartments.

Those hazardous conditions, the prosecutor’s office claims, included vermin infestations, damaged walls and ceilings, severe leaks, broken windows, non-functioning smoke detectors and inoperable appliances.

Healey’s office accuses Wang of violating the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act and the state’s fair housing and consumer protection laws. The prosecutor is seeking a preliminary injunction against the landlord to protect his tenants, who live in fear for their safety, according to authorities.

“Tenants have rights, no matter where they are from or what their immigration status might be,” Healey said in a statement. “This landlord tormented his tenants, causing them to fear for their own safety. No one should have to live like that. We are suing to protect the rights of these tenants and to prevent any future tenant from having to suffer this kind of abuse in their own home.”

The suit accuses Wang of frequently entering his tenants’ apartments in the three-unit building he owns on Lloyd Street without getting their permission or giving them warning. Authorities detailed how when the tenants complained about the intrusiveness, Wang called them demeaning names and told them it was his house and he could do what he wanted.

According to Healey’s office, in July 2020, two tenants withheld rent after a continuous leak in their ceiling ruined their mattress and caused property damage. In response, Wang is accused of physically threatening the female tenant and later threatening to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to have their family deported.

Several days later, the prosecutors office said, Wang illegally served the tenants a notice to quit, giving them two weeks to move out, in violation of the state’s coronavirus eviction moratorium.

The tenants then reported the poor and unsanitary conditions in their apartment to the city of Lynn’s Inspectional Services Department, which looked at the building and issued a notice of violation to Wang, according to the attorney general’s suit.

After Wang learned his tenants called the city, he is accused of telling them he had laws and ways of getting them out of there. Not long after his alleged threat, ICE agents arrived at the apartment building and arrested one of the tenants.

“Nobody should have to live in fear of being reported to ICE, especially not in their own homes,” said Eva Millona, president of the MIRA Coalition, a Boston-based immigrant and refugee relief organization. “Anyone who threatens to call ICE in an attempt to harass or intimidate immigrants must be held accountable – and MIRA is grateful to Attorney General Healey and her team for seeking justice in this heartbreaking case.”

The tenant was ultimately released from custody, authorities noted, but the landlord’s intimidation and direct threats continued.

He is accused of sending text messages that included photographs of news articles about the arrest with the tenant’s name underlined and a follow-up message that read “the game is over, please respect The Law And talk to your lawyer.”

Wang, the suit claims, harassed another tenant after she complained about a cockroach and mouse infestation in her apartment. The landlord is accused of refusing to fix the problem, being aggressive with the tenant and telling her “if she didn’t like it, she could leave,” according to Healey’s office.

Late last year, Wang is accused of going to the tenant’s apartment to fix a non-functioning smoke detector. While there, the prosecutor’s office said, he threw part of the detector at the tenant while her young daughter was standing nearby.

Authorities claimed when the tenant brought up Wang’s intrusiveness and the apartment’s poor conditions, he threatened to call ICE on her and have her deported. In another incident, officials said, Wang went to the apartment and loudly and repeatedly banged on the door, while the tenant’s young daughter hid under the kitchen table out of fear.

The prosecutor’s office argued Wang has a history of threatening and harassing his tenants.

A previous tenant claimed after she asked Wang for help with needed repairs, he entered her apartment without permission, grabbed her by the collar and began shaking her. He is accused of threatening to report her to ICE as well. His alleged behavior ultimately forced her to move out, Healey’s office said.

Flerida De La Cruz, an organizer for the community organization, Lynn United for Change, pointed out the housing crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic has hit immigrant communities in Lynn “really hard.”

“A lot of the essential workers we have all depended on are struggling with unaffordable rent and unsafe conditions,” De La Cruz said in a statement. “It’s so important for people to know they can raise their voices when something is wrong, no matter their immigration status. Everyone should have a safe and dignified home.”

The motion for preliminary injunction the attorney general’s office filed asks the court to require Wang no longer communicate with any of the tenants described in the motion and their families and maintain a reasonable physical distance from them, their places of employment and their homes unless he is making necessary repairs to their apartments.

Healey’s office is also asking the court to prohibit Wang from assaulting, threatening or intimidating any current, former or future tenants. Authorities are asking the court to restrict the landlord from causing damage to their property and to ban him from entering their homes without permission.

The motion for preliminary injunction the attorney general’s office filed asks the court to require Wang no longer communicate with any of the tenants described in the motion and their families and maintain a reasonable physical distance from them, their places of employment and their homes unless he is making necessary repairs to their apartments.

Healey’s office is also asking the court to prohibit Wang from assaulting, threatening or intimidating any current, former or future tenants. Authorities are asking the court to restrict the landlord from causing damage to their property and to ban him from entering their homes without permission.

In its suit, the prosecutor’s office is seeking civil penalties and restitution for the tenants who were allegedly harmed.

“We applaud the Attorney General’s leadership in ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone in our communities, especially during the pandemic,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Boston-based nonprofit Lawyers for Civil Rights. “Right now, housing insecurity is very real. We must remain vigilant to make sure property owners are not using coercive measures, including the threat of deportation, against tenants to displace or evict them.”

The attorney general’s Civil Rights Division urges any tenant who is being harassed, threatened or discriminated against to call its hotline at 617-963-2917 or file a complaint online. Information can be found here that reminds landlords and other housing providers about the fact that all tenants have a right to be free from harassment and intimidation.

READ MORE ON MASSLIVE.COM

By Jackson Cote  | March 17, 2021

A Massachusetts landlord is being sued by the state over claims he physically and verbally harassed his tenants and threatened to report them to the federal government for deportation to keep them from speaking up against dangerous and unsanitary living conditions.

The lawsuit filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office Tuesday accuses She Ling Wang, a landlord in Lynn, of harassing, intimidating and threatening Latinx tenants and their families to prevent them from addressing hazardous conditions in their apartments.

Those hazardous conditions, the prosecutor’s office claims, included vermin infestations, damaged walls and ceilings, severe leaks, broken windows, non-functioning smoke detectors and inoperable appliances.

Healey’s office accuses Wang of violating the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act and the state’s fair housing and consumer protection laws. The prosecutor is seeking a preliminary injunction against the landlord to protect his tenants, who live in fear for their safety, according to authorities.

“Tenants have rights, no matter where they are from or what their immigration status might be,” Healey said in a statement. “This landlord tormented his tenants, causing them to fear for their own safety. No one should have to live like that. We are suing to protect the rights of these tenants and to prevent any future tenant from having to suffer this kind of abuse in their own home.”

The suit accuses Wang of frequently entering his tenants’ apartments in the three-unit building he owns on Lloyd Street without getting their permission or giving them warning. Authorities detailed how when the tenants complained about the intrusiveness, Wang called them demeaning names and told them it was his house and he could do what he wanted.

According to Healey’s office, in July 2020, two tenants withheld rent after a continuous leak in their ceiling ruined their mattress and caused property damage. In response, Wang is accused of physically threatening the female tenant and later threatening to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to have their family deported.

Several days later, the prosecutors office said, Wang illegally served the tenants a notice to quit, giving them two weeks to move out, in violation of the state’s coronavirus eviction moratorium.

The tenants then reported the poor and unsanitary conditions in their apartment to the city of Lynn’s Inspectional Services Department, which looked at the building and issued a notice of violation to Wang, according to the attorney general’s suit.

After Wang learned his tenants called the city, he is accused of telling them he had laws and ways of getting them out of there. Not long after his alleged threat, ICE agents arrived at the apartment building and arrested one of the tenants.

“Nobody should have to live in fear of being reported to ICE, especially not in their own homes,” said Eva Millona, president of the MIRA Coalition, a Boston-based immigrant and refugee relief organization. “Anyone who threatens to call ICE in an attempt to harass or intimidate immigrants must be held accountable – and MIRA is grateful to Attorney General Healey and her team for seeking justice in this heartbreaking case.”

The tenant was ultimately released from custody, authorities noted, but the landlord’s intimidation and direct threats continued.

He is accused of sending text messages that included photographs of news articles about the arrest with the tenant’s name underlined and a follow-up message that read “the game is over, please respect The Law And talk to your lawyer.”

Wang, the suit claims, harassed another tenant after she complained about a cockroach and mouse infestation in her apartment. The landlord is accused of refusing to fix the problem, being aggressive with the tenant and telling her “if she didn’t like it, she could leave,” according to Healey’s office.

Late last year, Wang is accused of going to the tenant’s apartment to fix a non-functioning smoke detector. While there, the prosecutor’s office said, he threw part of the detector at the tenant while her young daughter was standing nearby.

Authorities claimed when the tenant brought up Wang’s intrusiveness and the apartment’s poor conditions, he threatened to call ICE on her and have her deported. In another incident, officials said, Wang went to the apartment and loudly and repeatedly banged on the door, while the tenant’s young daughter hid under the kitchen table out of fear.

The prosecutor’s office argued Wang has a history of threatening and harassing his tenants.

A previous tenant claimed after she asked Wang for help with needed repairs, he entered her apartment without permission, grabbed her by the collar and began shaking her. He is accused of threatening to report her to ICE as well. His alleged behavior ultimately forced her to move out, Healey’s office said.

Flerida De La Cruz, an organizer for the community organization, Lynn United for Change, pointed out the housing crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic has hit immigrant communities in Lynn “really hard.”

“A lot of the essential workers we have all depended on are struggling with unaffordable rent and unsafe conditions,” De La Cruz said in a statement. “It’s so important for people to know they can raise their voices when something is wrong, no matter their immigration status. Everyone should have a safe and dignified home.”

The motion for preliminary injunction the attorney general’s office filed asks the court to require Wang no longer communicate with any of the tenants described in the motion and their families and maintain a reasonable physical distance from them, their places of employment and their homes unless he is making necessary repairs to their apartments.

Healey’s office is also asking the court to prohibit Wang from assaulting, threatening or intimidating any current, former or future tenants. Authorities are asking the court to restrict the landlord from causing damage to their property and to ban him from entering their homes without permission.

The motion for preliminary injunction the attorney general’s office filed asks the court to require Wang no longer communicate with any of the tenants described in the motion and their families and maintain a reasonable physical distance from them, their places of employment and their homes unless he is making necessary repairs to their apartments.

Healey’s office is also asking the court to prohibit Wang from assaulting, threatening or intimidating any current, former or future tenants. Authorities are asking the court to restrict the landlord from causing damage to their property and to ban him from entering their homes without permission.

In its suit, the prosecutor’s office is seeking civil penalties and restitution for the tenants who were allegedly harmed.

“We applaud the Attorney General’s leadership in ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone in our communities, especially during the pandemic,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Boston-based nonprofit Lawyers for Civil Rights. “Right now, housing insecurity is very real. We must remain vigilant to make sure property owners are not using coercive measures, including the threat of deportation, against tenants to displace or evict them.”

The attorney general’s Civil Rights Division urges any tenant who is being harassed, threatened or discriminated against to call its hotline at 617-963-2917 or file a complaint online. Information can be found here that reminds landlords and other housing providers about the fact that all tenants have a right to be free from harassment and intimidation.

READ MORE ON MASSLIVE.COM