Does Your #Kitsap Property Have Racist Deed Restriction Language?
We recently read an article in the Seattle Times detailing the history of racist deed restrictions in many area neighborhoods, particularly those built before World War II. In that era, neigborhood covenants could exclude members of the community by race or religion without consequence. It likely was considered prudent development, by societal norms that have thankfully gone by the wayside. Seattle is providing a way for area residents to strike the language from their own property deeds, even though the actual enforcement of these sorts of deed restrictions has been illegal for many decades. The language's very existence on the deed of a beloved and cared for property, understandably bothers and angers residents in a modern era. It can be a hurtful reminder of the era of segregation and housing disrimination.
It got us curious about the probability that similar property deed restrictions exist in our own backyard, here in Kitsap. The climate surrounding racially charged language on property covenants changed nationally in 1948, when the Supreme Court ruled that racist neighborhood bylaws were not enforceable - and in 1968, the Fair Housing Act banned racially discriminatory deed restrictions altogether. But we certainly had a lot of property developed in Kitsap prior to those landmark changes in the housing market.
Kitsap County maintains a page dedicated to helping area residents check their own property records for problematic language, and provides the process (which is a bit different than what is detailed in the Seattle Times article linked above) for homeowners to address the archaic and obsolete inclusions on their own deed.
There are a couple ways you can examine your own deed. First, peruse the public database maintained by the county auditor of all Kitsap properties. The second way is by examining your documents issued by your Title Insurance, at the time of sale. This is detailed in the Kitsap webpage dedicated to the topic.
With the information in hand, you'll be able to request a modification to your deed. While you might encounter a notary fee or similar, there is no fee charged by the county to enact this modification - it really just costs your time in order to research the issue, and file the paperwork.
And this is strictly voluntary: nobody can enforce a restriction against you on your property based on these old covenants. The rights of persons of any racial, ethnic, or religious background to own property are guaranteed by federal and state laws. You do not need to redact the racist language found in a deed, in order for this to be true. It is largely a method by which people who find the language hurtful and offensive, have a method to strike it from the working records of their home. It absolutely is not necessary, in order for homeowners to retain rights to their property, however.
If you're unsure about moving forward or leaving the deed as is, consult your real estate attorney for advice on modifying the deed. We happen to think it's nice that we have a way to exclude the distasteful language moving forward. It's not something we want as part of the landscape of Kitsap community.
If we can assist you with your own next property transaction, please give us a ring at Dupuis Team - we're looking forward to hearing from you!