Use of “Choose Your Neighbor" Form Letters as Part of a Marketing Campaign
The ABC Board of REALTORS® received a complaint from a local fair housing group alleging that REALTOR® A was using discriminatory marketing techniques, in violation of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics, as the listing broker for a property in a new subdivision.
In support of their complaint, the fair housing group provided copies of “Choose Your Neighbor” form letters sent by REALTOR® A to current neighborhood residents. The letters announced that the property was on the market and invited neighborhood residents to contact REALTOR® A if they knew of anyone who they thought might be interested in purchasing the home.
At the hearing, REALTOR® A defended his use of “Choose Your Neighbor” form letters by demonstrating that they were just one element of his marketing campaign, and were not an attempt to restrict access to the property on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or country of national origin as prohibited by Article 10. REALTOR® A produced copies of advertisements run in several newspapers, “open house” flyers distributed at supermarkets throughout the town and a copy of the property data sheet submitted to the Board’s MLS. REALTOR® A remarked, “In my experience, the current residents of a neighborhood often have friends or relatives who have said that they would love to live in the neighborhood. It just makes sense to me to include contacting these folks in any marketing campaign!”
The Hearing Panel found REALTOR® A not in violation of Article 10. In their “Findings of Fact and Conclusions,” the panel noted that the use of “Choose Your Neighbor” letters is not a per se violation of Article 10, but cautioned that such letters could be used in a manner inconsistent with the intent of Article 10. If used in conjunction with other marketing techniques and not as a means of limiting or restricting access to property on the basis of race, color, sex, handicap, familial status, or country of national origin, “Choose Your Neighbor” letters were another method of announcing a property’s availability and attracting potential purchasers.