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Scrubbing Racist covenants from land records

Updated: Oct 28


Racially restrictive covenants in land records are a shameful reminder of the past. These covenants were legally valid until just a few decades ago and were used to exclude people of color, Jews, people of Asian ancestry, and people with disabilities from buying or renting homes. Source

Although these covenants are no longer legally enforceable, the discriminatory language still exists in many deeds and title abstracts. This language can dampen the enthusiasm of potential buyers and create mistrust in minority communities. Source

Several states have taken steps to remove this language from their records. For example, Missouri has passed a law that requires deletions of language regarding anyone’s race, religion, or national origin from any deeds recorded from now on. Similarly, California has passed a law that allows anyone to file a form requesting county officials to redact the language from property records. Source

The process of removing racial covenants has been streamlined by requiring title and escrow companies as well as real estate brokers to assist home buyers wanting to remove the language. The corrected document is then taken to county recording officials who place it in the public records with a notation that the original document was corrected. Source

It is important to note that these restrictive covenants are not legally enforceable today. However, their existence is a reminder of our past and how far we have come in terms of civil rights. Source

One deed said: “No person of any race other than the white race shall use or occupy any building on said lot, except this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race domiciled with an owner or tenant.”

"That avenue has been traditionally where most Americans create generational wealth. For black Americans, it has been dicey in that area," said Raymond Winbush, a Morgan State University professor and director of the Institute for Urban Research.

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