Editorial: Should be no love for these letters

Posted 4/8/22

In this ultra-competitive housing market, just how far would you go to procuring your dream home?

For some prospective home-buyers, the answer is pretty far. In some cases, way too far — …

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Editorial: Should be no love for these letters

Posted

In this ultra-competitive housing market, just how far would you go to procuring your dream home?

For some prospective home-buyers, the answer is pretty far. In some cases, way too far — to the point where a home sale may be impacted more by a buyer’s race, religion, sexual orientation, military status or other factors not related to their actual offer.

With the housing market on fire, many homebuyers are writing “love letters” to sellers in hopes of putting themselves in front of the line. The letters gush about the living room or bedrooms, or describe what the buyer has planned for the layout.

Some of the letters include personal details — even photographs of family members, including young children.

Concerned these “love letters” could inject bias into the home-selling process — sellers could end up accepting an offer based on race or religious affiliation, for example — lawmakers around the country, not to mention many real estate agents, are looking to end the practice. Last year, Oregon became the first state to outlaw “love letters.”

Now a Rhode Island lawmaker from Portsmouth, Rep. Terri Cortvriend (District 72), is looking to get a similar law passed in the Ocean State. We wholeheartedly endorse her bill, 2002-H 7722, which was introduced last month and referred to the House Municipal Government & Housing Committee. (Full disclosure: Rep. Michelle McGaw, the wife of The Portsmouth Times’ editor, is a co-sponsor.)

Cortvriend said the practice of writing “love letters” could inadvertently result in redlining. Historically, redlining referred to the practice of denying someone financial services due to their race or ethnicity, but today it can include other biases that could come into play during a home sale.

“The housing climate recently has been so hot and when you have so many buyers putting in offers for one single home, it seemed like we have a ripe environment for this to potentially happen,” Cortvriend told a House committee.

Many real estate agents have thrown their support behind the bill, if they haven’t already made it policy to ban the practice. As they should — this is a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen.

Although the language in Cortvriend’s bill may be too broad — there are concerns it too closely resembles the Oregon bill, which is facing a legal challenge over free speech rights — the legislation shouldn’t be placed on the back burner, but retooled and made into law.

A “love letter” may tug at the heart strings, but it could inject bias into the real estate market, and that’s not good for anyone.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.