Prospective homebuyers in Oregon can continue to send “love letters” to win over sellers in a competitive housing market.
A federal judge on Wednesday permanently blocked a ban on the personal messages some buyers write to sweeten their offers on homes. The Oregon Legislature had approved the ban last year, saying such letters could aid sellers in illegally choosing buyers based on factors like race, color, religion, sex or sexual orientation, which would violate federal fair housing laws.
U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez granted a preliminary injunction in March blocking the ban but made the ruling permanent on Wednesday.
Hernandez ruled that the ban, which would require a home seller to “reject any communication other than customary documents in a real estate transaction, including photographs, provided by a buyer,” was a violation of buyers’ First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Total Real Estate Group, a Bend firm with about 20 agents.
Daniel Ortner, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said the judge’s decision sent “a clear message” that states couldn’t infringe upon home buyers’ and sellers’ rights to communicate.
“The State of Oregon clearly recognized that it could not justify its ban on sharing information that helps sellers find the best buyer for their home,” Ortner said in a news release.
In his March 3 preliminary injunction, Hernandez said Oregon’s reasons for the ban had merit, given its “long and abhorrent history of racial discrimination in property ownership and housing,” which blocked people of color from owning houses for decades.
Mesheal Heyman, a spokesperson from 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 judgement.
“The agency remains committed to working with real estate licensees to ensure they meet their responsibilities to comply with existing state and federal fair housing laws,” she wrote.