One of the tactics that a buyer’s agent and/or buyer may use to convince a seller to sell them their house is a buyer’s letter. This letter is supposed to elicit an emotional reaction from a seller – these letter’s explain why that buyer wants to buy their house, from the neighborhood to “wanting a street with loads of children so their kids can play”. Sometimes a buyer will send along a picture of their happy family..
But do these letters run afoul of the Fair Housing laws?
Seller’s need to make their decisions based on price and terms. Seller’s can get emotional, sometimes they care who buys the house they raised their children in and was their home for the past 30 years. The following was posted by a MLS, not in Louisiana, to give real estate licensees a head’s up.
Buyer’s Letters could pose problems with the Federal, State and local Fair Housing Laws. Buyer’s Letters are used to appeal to the emotions of the seller and mostly contain personal information about the buyer/tenant, such as age, family, or religion.
If a seller makes a decision not to sell to a particular buyer based on factors stated in the letter and those factors are protected under the Fair Housing Laws, the seller and the real estate agent can be brought up on charges of discrimination. Any real estate agent who facilitated that letter by encouraging or even forwarding the letter could be facing a fair housing complaint, including his/her broker.
It is illegal to refuse to sell or rent to a prospective buyer/tenant based on a protected class. Buyer’s Letters can be used as evidence of discrimination, even if there was no discriminatory intent. Initial fines for a fair housing violation start at $10,000.00 and substantially increase from there.
Also, a seller should never request photos from buyers. If sellers consider other factors besides price and terms, they can open themselves up to fair housing complaints.
The fine for being convicted of a Fair Housing violation is $10,000.00 – and I agree that it can cross a line way too easily and better not to do it.