Modify or Remove Restrictive Covenants
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, and limited ownership or use to one particular race or members of certain religions.
Supreme Court rulings and state and federal law make these restrictions illegal to enforce.
Property owners have three choices if their property has an unlawful, restrictive covenant associated with it. As of Jan. 1, 2022, real estate transactions will require disclosure of restrictive covenants.
- File a Restrictive Covenant Modification. Filing this document through Snohomish County Recording costs nothing. It effectively removes reference to the offending document from your chain of title.
- Have the covenant removed. Washington law allows for the illegal language to be struck by bringing an action in Superior Court. Filing through Superior Court costs $20. Property owners will then need to provide the new records to Snohomish County Recording for filing at no charge.
- Do nothing to modify or remove the covenant.
In 2018, Washington State provided a way for property owners to address discriminatory, restrictive covenants found in documents affecting the title of their properties. If your property has a restrictive covenant recorded in the past, you can record a modification document with the county where your property is located.
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.
1. Gather necessary information
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.
2. Complete the form
Fill out the Restrictive Covenant Modification with the information above, but do not sign it yet.
3. Sign and notarize form
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.
4. Submit to Snohomish County Recording
There is no charge to record the document.
Starting on January 1, 2022, property owners who have an unlawful, discriminatory restrictive covenant associated with their property will be able to remove the covenant from their property deed.
The new option comes as a result of House Bill 1335 (HB 1335), passed by the Washington State Legislature during the 2021 Legislative session. The legislation provides a judicial remedy to have a restricted covenant struck from the chain of title.
If a property owner wants the covenant removed, they go to Superior Court (paying the nominal court fee) in the county in which the property is located. Superior Court may issue a declaratory judgment action - entering an order striking the void provisions from the public records and eliminating the void provisions from the title. The property owner bringing the action may obtain and deliver a certified copy of the order to the County Recording Office, who will record the document for no fee.
Snohomish County Recording will maintain the restrictive covenants for historical purposes, but the new process allows property owners to separate historic records from their future property transactions.
Text adapted from King County and Spokane County Auditors.