REALTORS® monitor developments in Oregon ‘love letter’ legislation
On March 3, 2022, a U.S. District Judge granted a preliminary injunction of the enforcement of Oregon’s legislation in its real estate license act from banning agents from transmitting buyer “love letters” in real estate transactions.
When the original legislation passed in January 2022, it drew a lot of attention from brokerages across the country. At the time, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) issued a statement supporting the legislation, stating that “all parties in a real estate transaction should consider only legitimate, non-discriminatory criteria when making business decisions.” This injunction is just the next step in a lawsuit filed by an Oregon-based real estate brokerage that argues the ban goes too far in restricting free speech. Illinois REALTORS® will continue to monitor the case as it proceeds through the court system and provide updates as the case progresses.
NAR has consistently cautioned against the use of love letters because they often “contain personal information and reveal characteristics of the buyer, such as race, religion, or familial status, which could then be used, knowingly or through unconscious bias, as an unlawful basis for a seller’s decision to accept or reject an offer.”
Even though Illinois has no statutory provision prohibiting use or transmission of these letters, many brokerages discourage this tactic to avoid allegations of discriminatory conduct or fair housing law violation. Buyer’s brokers can help their buyers evaluate offers using objective criteria. If you have buyer clients who insist on using love letters in transactions, encourage them to discuss the content with their own attorneys. Likewise, if sellers receive love letters, advise them to have the letters reviewed by their attorneys and remind them of the importance of making decisions based upon objective criteria. Brokerages with policies against drafting or delivering love letters must apply those policies consistently.