In today’s hot housing market in New Jersey, high demand and limited supply is causing eager buyers to go to extreme lengths to make their offer stand out, including cash deals, sight unseen offers and waiving inspections. Some buyers even attach a “love letter” to their offer, which describes themselves and their appreciation for the home in hopes that they appeal to the sellers’ emotions.
Oftentimes, a buyer love letter attempts to pull on the sellers’ heartstrings by striking a familiar chord or sentimental commonality to influence the seller to accept their offer. For example, if the buyers know that the sellers raised their family in the home, they could reference their own plans for raising a family in the home. Although this practice sounds like a harmless and effective strategy for securing a buyer’s dream home, it could actually be dangerously close to violating federal fair housing laws and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits discrimination when selling or renting property. Sellers and landlords cannot choose renters or buyers based on a person’s race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, nationality, marital or domestic partnership or civil union status, sex, gender identity or expression, disability, affectional or sexual orientation, family status or source of lawful income or source of lawful rent payment (such as rental assistance from the Housing Choice Voucher Program formerly known as Section 8). The LAD does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of age in a housing context. However, it is unlawful to discriminate against families with children, except in certain qualified housing developments intended specifically for older persons, which may be allowed to exclude children.
In this way, if buyers reveal too much personal information in their love letter, such as family configuration or religion, and their offer is not accepted, the sellers could potentially be accused of making a decision based on those details which would be in violation of Fair Housing laws. For example, if a buyer writes how they dream of hosting their daughter’s quinceanera or celebrating Hannukah in the home and their offer is not accepted, the sellers could be accused of discrimination based on the facts included in the love letter.
In order to avoid potential or unintentional discrimination and violation of Fair Housing laws, the letters should not be submitted to the seller. If, however buyers do engage in writing a love letter, they should describe their interest in the home’s features or neighborhood, not make a personal plea. Likewise, sellers should base their acceptance on the terms and price of offer rather than emotional decisions or attachment to the buyers.
For more information on the implications of Fair Housing laws in buying or selling a home, contact FNL today.