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Court orders Newton landlord to cease retaliation

A Boston-area landlord being sued by the state attorney general’s office has been ordered to stop retaliating against tenants for complaining about unsafe conditions and to refrain from discriminating against tenants with young children.

Keith L. Miller , of Newton - who owns 24 units in Chelsea, Newton, Brighton, and Arlington - has also been ordered to notify the office of Attorney General Martha Coakley of any eviction action he initiates against any tenant.

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The preliminary injunction against Miller, issued last week by Suffolk Superior Court and announced Tuesday by Coakley’s office, comes after the attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit against Miller in February 2011 alleging numerous violations against his tenants.

The lawsuit contends Miller moved to evict tenants on Bacon Street in Newton after they gave birth to children because he was obligated to delead their apartments. State law requires landlords to abate lead paint hazards in apartments where children under the age of 6 reside.

The lawsuit also said Miller moved to evict a tenant on Park Street in Chelsea who requested a lead paint inspection by the Department of Public Health. The inspection ultimately found violations in the apartment, according to Coakley’s office.

Miller, who has a Boston law practice, declined to comment Tuesday. His lawyer, Mark Stopa, called the allegations against Miller “categorically untrue.’’

Stopa said there has not been a single time in which Miller has failed to make repairs that are required. “These are people who were evicted largely for not having paid their rent and they are unhappy about it,’’ Stopa said.

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But according to the attorney general’s office, Miller rented apartments containing lead paint to tenants with young children, refused to repair unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and retaliated against tenants when they reported suspected violations to city and state officials. In one instance after a Hispanic tenant at one of Miller’s apartments in Chelsea requested a health code inspection, Miller allegedly made inquiries and threatening comments about the tenant’s immigration status, according to Coakley’s office.

In a press release Tuesday, Coakley said her office is alleging that Miller engaged in a pervasive pattern of retaliatory and coercive conduct directed at tenants.

“We want to ensure that tenants have access to safe housing and are not threatened or evicted when they complain about living conditions,’’ she said. “This case is of particular importance because the safety of young children is at risk and the landlord has been uncooperative.’’

Stopa categorically denied that Miller had made any threatening comments about a tenant’s immigration status and he said it is “very sad’’ that the attorney general’s office issued a press release about the case. He said a trial date for the case has not been set.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.

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