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Oregon Bans Love Letters. Is Washington next?

The Oregon legislature has just passed a bill requiring listing agents to reject “Love Letters” from prospective buyers. The new law, which doesn't go into effect until January 2022, prohibits “any communication other than customary documents from a homebuyer, including photographs.”

Often these letters contain details that disclose personal details that include protected class information. This can easily lead seller's to inadvertently choose or reject someone's offer.

The 1968 Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, age, and disability. Furthermore, local governments (like the City of Seattle) have added others: such as political ideology, and sexual orientation (including gender identity), etc.

While legal in Washington, many real estate brokers counsel their sellers to avoid looking at these letters at all, and warn them of the pitfalls and risks. Others (especially buyer's agents) see them as a way to give their buyer's an edge if they can pull at the seller's heartstrings (hence the name “love letters”). But recently the drumbeat to eliminate this practice is growing louder. Last week the DOJ pulled out of a lawsuit settlement with the NAR (National Association of Realtors). This opens the NAR up to challenges by the DOJ regarding this practice nationwide. Indeed, the NAR issued guidance for Realtors in October 2020 urging them to consider best practices that included informing clients that they will not deliver buyer love letters.

This topic draws lots of passionate opinions among both real estate brokers and consumers. Expect lots of debate and discussion on this in the near future.