By: Michael Safren, Esq. and Jenny Ling, Esq.
During the process of buying, selling, or refinancing a property, property owners often discover that the title to their property includes restrictions on how that property can be used, what kind of improvements can be made to the property, and sometimes who the property can sold or transferred to. These restrictions are called “restrictive covenants” and often property owners recorded restrictive covenants that prohibited people of specific races, national origin, ethnic backgrounds, or religious beliefs from legally purchasing or occupying real property. Many of these race-based or identity-based convents were implemented in the first half of the 20th Century as a reaction to court cases banning cities and states laws to racially segregate housing.
Race Or Identity Based Restrictive Covenants Are Void and Not Legally Enforceable.
In Shelly v. Kramer, Supreme Court of the United States held "that the [racially] restrictive agreements, standing alone, cannot be regarded as violative of any rights guaranteed to petitioners by the Fourteenth Amendment." This prohibited racially restrictive covenants on title, and if they were on title rendered them unenforceable.
In 1968, the federal Fair Housing Act banned covenants discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. In 1969, a Washington state law, RCW 49.60.224, passed rendering such covenants void, meaning that they have no legal effect. RCW 49.60.224(2) states "[i]t is an unfair practice to insert in a written instrument relating to real property a provision that is void under this section or to honor or attempt to honor such a provision in the chain of title."
Removing Race Or Identity Based Restrictive Covenants in King County
While the law renders such covenants void and unenforceable, you may, nonetheless, wish to have these offensive race or identity- based covenants formally removed from the title to your property. First, visit King County’s restrictive covenant modification homepage to assist you in the removal of these restrictions here. Second, download the restrictive covenant modification form and complete the information. The covenant modification form must be notarized. Third, submit the form to King County Recorder’s Office. There is no charge or recording fee for processing and recording the covenant modification form to remove the racially or identity-based restriction covenant from your property.
Michael Safren is a Partner at The Law Offices of Jenny Ling, PLLC. His practice focuses on business, real estate, and civil litigation.
Jenny Ling is a Partner at The Law Offices of Jenny Ling, PLLC. Her practice focuses on estate planning, probate, and business.