- Legal Hotline
- Legal Q&A Archives
- Buyer/Seller Advisories
- Oregon’s New Advertising Rules: What are the Key Changes?
- Code of Ethics Enforcement & Disputes
- Multiple Offer Situations
- Selling Tenant-Occupied Homes
- Evictions Guidance
- Love Letter Guidance
- Oregon REALTORS® COVID-19 Updates
Love Letter Guidance
On March 3, 2022, the US District Court for the District of Oregon put an injunction on the enforcement of Oregon’s new law requiring Seller’s agents to reject “Love Letters” from buyers. While the injunction is in place, the Oregon Real Estate Agency will not be enforcing the law and Oregon real estate licensees are not required to follow it. However, regardless of the new law, Love Letters continue to present risks related to Fair Housing violations. If a seller were to select or reject a buyer based on the buyer’s protected class information revealed in a love letter, that would be a violation of fair housing laws. And a real estate licensee who assists a seller in making a decision based upon protected class status would also be committing a fair housing violation.
The best way to mitigate the risk is to not use love letters in the first place. For example, listing agents and sellers can agree upfront that they will not accept buyer love letters and photographs, and post this information in the MLS so that all potential buyers are on notice. Many REALTORS® already have a policy and practice like this in place.
If Sellers are going to accept love letters, or buyers are thinking about using them, it may not be possible to eliminate fair housing concerns, although there are steps agents can take to mitigate risks. Below is a script that you may want to consider using:
As your listing agent I will deliver all documentation that I receive from any buyer/buyer’s agent to you. I will review the material details of all offers with you and summarize the information on a multiple offer spreadsheet so that you can objectively see the financial merits of each offer. I will not be able to discuss the details of any letter submitted from a buyer with you, and my role is to help you objectively respond to the offer that helps you achieve the highest and best possible price with the best terms. Please keep in mind, recently agents were not allowed to present letters from buyers to the seller due to a new law – that’s currently on hold as it works its way through the courts – prohibiting them. While the new law is not currently in effect, under fair housing laws sellers are not allowed to make decisions about buyers based on the buyer’s status as a member of a protected class.
As your buyer’s agent I am not able to advise you regarding completing a letter to the seller. On your behalf, I can present information about your qualification and ability to purchase the property, and specific details about the property that you like. Please keep in mind that sellers may not be interested in reviewing a letter from you — recently agents were not allowed to present letters from buyers to the seller due to a new law – that’s currently on hold as it works its way through the courts – prohibiting them. While the new law is not currently in effect, under fair housing laws sellers are not allowed to make decisions about buyers based on the buyer’s status as a member of a protected class.
As a reminder, protected classes in Oregon include:
- Source of income
- Marital status (terms like, “husband”, “wife”, “engaged”, etc.)
- Familial status (terms like, “family,” “children”, “grandparents”)
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity (terms like, “Mrs.”, “Mr.” “She” “He” in reference to the buyer or buyer’s family)
- National Origin (terms like, “locally born and bred” or “Oregon Native”)
And always check with your local jurisdiction, as they may include additional protected classes. Here is a helpful chart from the Fair Housing Council of Oregon listing federal, state and local protected classes.
For more information on love letters, check out our video here. For more information on helping clients objectively navigate multiple offer situations, check out our guidance on multiple offer situations.