It’s time to address racially restrictive covenants 


Across the country, there are historic covenants in land records that in the past prohibited the sale or lease of property based on race, ethnicity or religion. While not legally enforceable today, these covenants – remnants of a dark period in American history – have caused significant pain and harm for many Americans.

There is no question these discriminatory covenants have tainted the land records and property owners should be empowered to repudiate these illegal covenants. Amidst practical hurdles and varying state guidelines, there remains no one-size-fits-all solution to addressing the continued existence of these covenants.

Despite challenges, it is critical the title industry – the professionals that often uncover these covenants in a title search – continue to be a thoughtful partner in addressing these discriminatory covenants. As a country, we cannot let discriminatory covenants be ignored and treated as another forgotten piece of history.

Since 1917, when the U.S. Supreme Court deemed city segregation ordinances illegal, discriminatory covenants began appearing in property records. Even though the Fair Housing Act made these covenants explicitly illegal in 1968, title professionals continue to discover discriminatory language when conducting title searches – a required step before a homebuyer is able to close on a home.

Article continues after advertisement

When title professionals discover the existence of a discriminatory covenant on an old deed, covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R) or map, they go to great lengths not to republish it, including crossing out, stamping out, or leaving a blank where the covenant appears and stating, “This covenant omitted.”

Beyond these steps, our industry supports efforts to enable homeowners to address the existence of discriminatory covenants in their property records.

In recent years, state lawmakers have proposed various approaches to further address the existence of these covenants. Some county offices provide notices on their websites and at record access points indicating the potential existence of discriminatory covenants. Others support a declaration in the land records repudiating discriminatory language or a new, superseding document. Redaction is also an option being considered among legislatures – completely removing all discriminatory language from existing land records, while maintaining copies to further research and quantify the harm they have caused. With each of these solutions, steps must be taken to ensure modification or removal of property record information does not inadvertently jeopardize homeowners’ property rights.

While these ongoing efforts are taking us in the right direction, ultimately to comprehensively address discriminatory covenants in land records, first they must be identified and quantified.

Last year, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., introduced the Mapping Housing Discrimination Act, which would provide funding to research and document discriminatory covenants. Passing this bill is a critical first step to understanding the far-reaching negative impacts of these covenants and building an effective legislative approach to removing these reminders of the Jim Crow Era.

The title industry continues to collaborate with industry partners and academic experts on recommendations and best practices. The American Land Title Association, the trade association of the title industry, has also convened a working group of industry experts to examine the scope of the problem and key legislative approaches to remedying discriminatory covenants in land records.

As an industry, we are committed to proactively working towards solutions that address these covenants while protecting the property rights of all homebuyers. Ignoring these disturbing relics of the past is not an option.

Wendy Ethen is the president of Guaranty Commercial Title, Inc. in Minneapolis.


Source link

What is your reaction?

In Love
Not Sure

You may also like

Comments are closed.

More in:News