Legal Hotline: Am I Obligated to Present Buyer 'Love Letters?'
January 4, 2021 Legal Updates MAR Legal Hotline
Buyer letters, or love letters as they are often referred to in real estate, have been under a lot of scrutiny recently. Often times, these letters contain personal information about the buyer(s) that identifies them as belonging to a protected class. If a seller’s decision to accept an offer is influenced by that information, they, and their REALTOR®, may be on the receiving end of a Fair Housing complaint. Malice or intent are not required when determining whether Fair Housing has been violated.
These letters, if submitted alongside an offer, would likely be considered part of the offer, obligating the REALTOR® to present it to their seller client. Massachusetts Regulations 254 CMR 3.11(d) obligates a real estate licensee to present all offers submitted to the seller.
The Board of Registration has opined that this legal obligation to present all offers may be modified based upon a lawful instruction from a seller. It is important for REALTORS® to discuss the importance of Fair Housing with their clients at the outset of the relationship. Upon explaining the potential risks of accepting personal letters from prospective buyers, a seller may instruct their REALTOR® to not accept personal letters. If this instruction is provided, document the parameters in the listing agreement or another writing, and inform prospective buyers and their agents that personal letters will not be shared with the seller(s).
The current market conditions have led to an uptick in the use of these types of letters. REALTORS® working with buyers should explain that personal letters should not be used. If a buyer insists on including a letter, counsel them to limit the information contained in the letter to the characteristics of the property, not the people.
The following are protected classes in Massachusetts: race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, ancestry, genetic information, marital status, age, veteran/military status, and source of income.
The information and services provided though the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, by providing this service, assumes no actual or implied responsibility for any improper use of responses to questions through this service.The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® will not be legally responsible for any potential misrepresentations or errors made by providing this service. For more information regarding these topics authorized callers should contact the MAR legal hotline at 800-370-5342 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.