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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 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. In 1969 the Washington Law Against Discrimination included all protected classes and makes such covenants void (illegal). That law says that it is an unfair practice to attempt to honor a 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.
HB 1335, passed by the state Legislature in 2021, funds research for the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University to identify restrictive covenants on private property and inform property owners. See the UW’s interactive map showing some of the subdivisions known to have been unlawfully restricted through deed provisions or restrictive covenants. This map is not exhaustive and currently contains King County properties only. The researchers are currently working on mapping restrictive covenants in Snohomish County.
Or you can do your own research. One option is to search the land title records maintained by Snohomish County Recording. These records are public, so you can search them for free. This can be a complex process and may require additional assistance from Snohomish County Recording. Research and copy fees may apply.
You can also review 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 Recording.
No, but the law is specific about disclosure during property transactions.
Through legal action and filing new paperwork with Snohomish County Recording, removing a restrictive covenant strikes the void provisions from the public records and eliminates the void provisions from the title. 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.
No. 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 remove the restrictive covenant.
If the 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.