Judge permanently blocks ban on homebuyer ‘love letters’
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Prospective homebuyers in Oregon can continue to send “love letters” to people selling homes.
U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez on Wednesday permanently blocked a ban on the personal messages some buyers write in an effort to sweeten their offers on homes, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The Oregon Legislature approved the ban last year, saying such letters could aid sellers in illegally choosing buyers based on factors such as race, color, religion, sex or sexual orientation, which would violate federal fair housing laws.
Conservative public interest law firm, the Pacific Legal Foundation, sued the state to block the law’s implementation.
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, a lawyer 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 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.
But he said House Bill 2550 was an overreach, banning innocuous messages and infringing on free speech.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the state could appeal the decision.