House passes Valdez bill to notify home buyers of discriminatory covenant language

OLYMPIA –On March 4, the Washington House of Representatives passed legislation to notify home buyers of discriminatory covenant clauses in home deeds.

House Bill 1335, sponsored by Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle, requires disclosure of discriminatory agreement language in existing property deeds and clarifies the process for removing these unenforceable agreements. It also establishes a grant program for universities to study and archive these covenants, so they are not lost to history.

“These unenforceable covenants were used to prevent ownership of property by racial, ethnic, or religious groups,” said Valdez. “They are explicit examples of racism that shouldn’t be forgotten but must be removed from existing documents, so they do not cause any more pain and suffering.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racially restrictive covenants were unconstitutional in its 1948 Shelley v. Kraemer decision. Social enforcement of these covenants was banned with the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Even so, the language has largely remained in legal documents ever since.

House Bill 1335 will now head to the Senate for consideration.