Judge ends Oregon ban on ‘love letters’ from potential buyers


Potential Oregon buyers may continue to send “love letters” to win over sellers in a competitive real estate market.

A federal judge on Wednesday permanently blocked a ban on personal messages that some buyers write to sweeten their offers on homes. The Oregon Legislature approved the ban last year, saying such letters could help sellers illegally choose buyers based on factors such as race, color, religion, gender or ethnicity. sexual orientation, which would violate federal fair housing laws.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative public interest law firm, filed a lawsuit against the state in November to block the implementation of Bill 2550.

U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez granted a preliminary injunction in March blocking the ban, but made the decision permanent on Wednesday.

Hernandez ruled that the ban, which would require a door-to-door seller to “reject all communications other than documents customary in a real estate transaction, including photographs, provided by a buyer,” violated buyers’ First Amendment rights. .

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Total Real Estate Group, a Bend company with about 20 agents.

Daniel Ortner, an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, said the judge’s decision sends “a clear message” that states cannot infringe on the right of home buyers and sellers to communicate.

“The State of Oregon has clearly recognized that it cannot justify its ban on sharing information that helps sellers find the best buyer for their home,” Ortner said in a press release.

In his March 3 preliminary injunction, Hernandez said the reasons for Oregon’s ban were valid, given its “long and odious history of racial discrimination in property and housing,” which has prevented people of color from owning homes for decades.

But he said HB 2550 was overbroad, banning innocuous posts and undermining free speech.

Mesheal Heyman, spokesman for the Oregon Real Estate Agency, the state department that licenses real estate agents, said in an email that the agency does not plan to appeal the judgment.

“The agency remains committed to working with real estate licensees to ensure they meet their responsibilities to comply with existing federal and state fair housing laws,” she wrote.

— Jayati Ramakrishnan


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