PROVIDENCE, RI — As Rhode Islanders continue to compete in a red-hot real estate market, one local lawmaker is calling for an end to so-called buyer “love letters.” Rep. Terri Cortvriend called the practice a barrier to equity in the home buying process.
In competitive offer situations — like the current historic low inventory in Rhode Island — hopeful buyers will sometimes write a personal letter talking about their family, hopes for their future in the home or other personal anecdotes to make them more appealing to the seller. These “love letters” are often accompanied by photos.
While the process may seem harmless enough on the surface, it opens the possibility for unconscious biases to affect the seller’s offer selection, Cortvriend said.
“As we seek to improve equity, we should not allow this quiet form of redlining,” the East Bay lawmaker said.
Cortvriend’s legislation proposed an amendment to the state’s fair housing practices act to stipulate that “a seller’s agent shall reject any communication other than customary documents in a real estate transaction, including photographs, provided by a buyer,” to prevent the seller from making a selection influenced by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status of country of origin.
Rhode Island would not be the first state to call for an end to buyer love letters. In March, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against similar legislation in Oregon, claiming the broad wording meant that it violated the First Amendment free speech rights.
“We will have to watch this case, as the language in the bill may need to be reworked,” Cortvriend said. “Let’s at least acknowledge that this practice is happening.”
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Municipal Government and Housing and held for further study March 31.