New CA law removes racist language from original property deeds

California has a new law requiring all counties to remove racist language from their property records. These restrictive covenants have not been enforceable in decades but are still written into the deeds of thousands of properties across the state.

As of July 1st, anyone who finds language in a property deed that prohibits the sale of that property to someone because of their race, can require the county to remove it. These type of covenants were outlawed in 1948, but advocates say the discrimination they created still exist today.  

"She screenshot it because I didn’t believe her. Her first thing was, ‘Wait Asian people can’t buy this house?' And I was like, ‘What?’" said Ellen Hui, an agent with Compass Real Estate. 

Real estate agent Ellen Hui says she and her client were shocked when they read this clause in the disclosure documents from home they were trying to buy. Though the clause cannot be legally enforced today, the language is still in the original deed. It specifically states that the property is not to be sold to any Asiatic, Ethiopian, Mongolian or any person who is not white or Caucasian.  

"It made my heart sink that this was in recorded documents still. It made my client feel bad about the whole home buying process even though we weren’t going to proceed with this house. So it’s just altogether not a good thing, and so I think the law is a good thing to have." Hui said. 

Hui’s client did not want to be identified, but she spoke about how seeing the covenant impacted her home buying experience.                

"I feel obviously, real bad about it. I felt that I was being intimidated, that’s how I felt. Also, I was wondering why that article, if it’s from the 1960s, that it’s actually still in the disclosure, right, for me to read?" 

California Assembly Bill 1466, proposed by Assembly member Kevin McCarty, requires real estate agents to notify homebuyers of the ban and have the language removed with county officials. All Home is one of the advocacy groups that supported the bill.  

"It’s important for folks to realize just how imbedded in our laws, systems and policies these harmful practices were. We still see racial discrimination in the way that properties are appraised, or the way mortgages are given out. The whole subprime housing crises was a result of basically housing discrimination. So fair housing law and discrimination is very much alive," said Edie Irons, All Home Director of Communications.  

County officials across the state have to create a process for removing the racial covenants and Irons says over time, they hope this language will be a thing of the past.