In a competitive housing market, homebuyers will stop at nothing to persuade an owner to accept their bid. While some potential buyers will offer additional money, others take it a step further and write a love letter, sharing intimate details about their lives while also including photographs and videos to sweeten the deal.
But one state finds these love letters are not that innocent: In January, Oregon instituted a law banning the use of love letters in the homebuying process. In response, Total Real Estate Group has filed a lawsuit, hoping to block Oregon’s new law. Represented by Pacific Legal Foundation, the real estate firm argues that Oregon’s law on love letters is a violation of the First Amendment Rights of real estate brokers and homebuyers they represent.
“This is a solution in search of a problem. There is no evidence that it is a real problem that’s really resulting in discrimination,” Daniel Ortner, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation told USA Today. “And you can’t just go and ban whole types of communication in the fear that some small portion of it might somehow be used by someone.”
Oregon is the first state to make the practice of writing love letters illegal. In the law, real estate agents will not be able to facilitate the delivery of love letters from potential buyers that include details about people’s lives, including photographs and videos. However, buyers do have the opportunity to speak with sellers directly.
Although other states have not been following Oregon’s lead, many members of the real estate industry recognize that love letters have the potential to violate state and federal housing laws because they could reveal a buyer’s race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or familial status.
This potential for violating state and federal laws is what prompted Democratic Rep. Mark Meek to sponsor the legislation.
“We are limiting transmission of communications that are not relevant and could potentially be breaking fair housing laws,” Meek told USA Today.
Yet the Pacific Legal Foundation argues that love letters can differentiate first-time homebuyers in the bidding process as these pitches can show sellers who will have an interest in upkeep the property and community. And a recent study conducted by Redfin supports the Pacific Legal Foundation’s argument. Redfin found that writing a love letter increased a homebuyer’s chances by 59 percent in the bidding process.
However, many opponents argue that banning love letters is a way of fighting against housing discrimination, a problem that persists despite the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
“It’s nearly impossible to write a love letter to a seller without in some way, shape or form mentioning a protected class,” Seth Task, president of Ohio Realtors told USA Today. “It’s just best for an agent and a seller to not even remotely put themselves in a position of being accused of a violation of fair housing laws.”