Restrictive covenant modification
In 2018, Washington State amended its law against discrimination to provide property owners a way to strike racially restrictive covenants from documents affecting the title of their properties. If your property had a racially restrictive covenant recorded in the past, you can now record a modification document with the county where your property is located.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
In the first half of the 20th Century, covenants were recorded on some properties in Washington which included restrictions on who could legally purchase or occupy the property. These provisions sometimes singled out people from specific races, national origins, or ethnic backgrounds. Other versions limited ownership or use to one particular race. Sometimes the restrictive covenants limited ownership or use by members of certain religions.
No. In 1948, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that racially restrictive covenants could not be enforced. In 1968, the federal Fair Housing Act banned covenants discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. A Washington state law passed in 1969 provides that such covenants are void, meaning that they have no legal effect. That law says that it is an unfair practice to attempt to honor a racially restrictive covenant in the chain of title. The chain of title includes all the recorded documents that affect title to a property, back to the original conveyance by the United States.
Two sources can help you determine if a racially restrictive covenant is related to your property. The first source is the land title records maintained by the King County Recorder's Office. These records are public, so you can search them for free. This can be a complex process and fees are charged for copies.
The second source is your owner's title insurance policy, which is typically issued at the same time the property is purchased. A title insurance policy identifies documents appearing in the public records that affect title to the property. Your policy may reference deeds recorded decades ago, or covenant documents affecting an entire subdivision. You may be able to request copies from the title company that issued your title policy, although a fee may be charged. You may also use the recording information in your title policy to get copies from the Recorder's Office.
The modification document will refer to the original recorded document that contained the racially restrictive covenant and contain the following statement required by law:
Recording a modification document will provide notice in the land title records that the racially restrictive covenant is void and unenforceable. It will not delete the historic record. The modification document legally strikes, but does not physically erase, the void and illegal discriminatory provisions from the original document.
No. Racially restrictive covenants have been void in Washington since 1969. The attempt by any person to enforce such a covenant against your property would be a violation of state and federal law. Your rights are protected by existing law and do not require that you record a modification document.
How to Prepare and Record a Restrictive Covenant Modification Document
If you have verified that a recorded document in the chain of title to your property contains a racially restrictive covenant and you want to record a modification document, here are the steps to follow.
Obtain the following information about your property from your deed or your title insurance policy.
- Recording number of the original document containing the racially restrictive covenant that is void under state law
- It is not necessary to obtain the recording number for any later document repeating the terms of the original document or referencing its recording number
- Recording date of the original document containing the racially restrictive covenant
- The names of all current owners of the property (you and your co-owners, if any)
- Legal description (both full and abbreviated) of your property
- Tax parcel number for your property
Fill out the Restrictive Covenant Modification Document with the information above but do not sign it yet. The forms are available below.
Take the document and your government-issued photo identification (for example, a driver's license or passport) to a licensed notary public and sign in the presence of the notary. There may be a charge to have the document notarized.
Submit the completed, signed document to the Recorder's Office for recording. You can bring the document to our office in person or mail it. There is no charge to record the document.
Information on this page is adapted from the Spokane County Auditor.