Lawsuit seeks to overturn Oregon’s first-in-nation ban on home buying ‘love letters’

A sign outside a house reads "sale pending"

A home for sale in North Portland with a “sale pending” sign. (File/The Oregonian)Elliot Njus/Staff

A new Oregon law that bans so-called “love letters,” personal notes from prospective homebuyers to home sellers, has drawn a lawsuit seeking to invalidate it on First Amendment grounds before it takes effect in 2022.

The lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation says the Oregon Legislature had no justification for making the state the first in the nation to prohibit buyers from sending letters to sellers to try to sweeten their offers on houses for sale.

Those letters, often written to appeal to a buyer to accept a potentially less-competitive offer, were outlawed by lawmakers seeking to ensure that sellers can’t make decisions based on race, national origin, marital or family status, sex, sexual orientation or other protected class.

Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2550, sponsored by state Rep. Mark Meek, D-Clackamas, in June. It had unanimously passed the House of Representatives and passed the state senate on a mostly party-line vote.

The complaint, filed on behalf of Total Real Estate Group, a Bend firm of 20 agents, says lawmakers provided no proof that such discrimination was taking place and that state and federal laws already prohibit housing discrimination. The lawsuit was first reported by USA Today.

“It’s a particularly egregious violation of the First Amendment,” said Daniel Ortner, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney. “These letters are extremely valuable and they do a lot of good. There’s nothing more than speculation that someone somewhere would do something to discriminate based on them.”

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Oregon Real Estate Commissioner Steve Strode, both named in the suit, did not respond to requests for comment.

The ban is due to go into effect Jan. 1.

Posted at OregonLive by Rob Davis on 11-21-21

Date: 2021-11-21 09:33

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