If you sold a home a few years back (or more), particularly in a competitive housing market, you may have received some emails or actual letters from prospective buyers who’d made an offer. Unfortunately, they’re not completely a thing of the past.
These “love letters” as they became known, are used to personalize an offer and help potential buyers stand out among others who are interested in a particular home. In these letters, people tell the seller something about themselves and explain why the home is just what they’ve been looking for. Photos are often included so that sellers can see what a nice couple/family could be living in their home.
Typically, home sellers are going to choose a buyer based on who has the best, most solid offer. However, if an offer is not accepted, people can be left with a nagging feeling that being turned down had something to do with their identity – which can be illegal.
That’s why the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has advised its members not to accept or forward on “love letters.” Even if the choice of a buyer was made solely on the basis of their offer, the seller and the agent could be accused of violating the Fair Housing Act.
Who’s protected under fair housing laws?
This federal law helps protect people from being denied housing on the basis of a number of protected characteristics. Connecticut includes even more characteristics. In addition to race, ancestry, gender, religion and others, it’s illegal in Connecticut to discriminate based on characteristics like:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
- Disability (physical or mental)
- Family status
- Legal source of income
The more you personally know about a prospective buyer who’s in a protected class, the greater the risk is that you’ll face legal issues like a fair housing complaint. At the very least, this can delay the sale of your home. It could result in litigation and penalties.
Your real estate agent shouldn’t be sending you “love letters” from any prospective buyers. If they do, or if you are sent one directly by the prospective buyer or their agent, your best bet is not to look at it. If it’s an email, don’t even open it. Potential land mines like these are why it’s always wise to have legal guidance as you sell your home.