Auditor works with community to strike racially restrictive covenants

Notary services to be available free of charge at Olympia Federal Savings branches

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The Thurston County Auditor's Office is reaching out to hundreds of landowners whose properties contain antiquated unlawful racially restrictive covenants. A recent law allows the Auditor's Office to provide landowners a modification document to strike the racially restrictive language from their titles at no cost.

While racially restrictive covenants are not valid or enforceable, property owners may choose to strike the language to ensure they don't pass on from buyer to buyer. The auditor-provided modification document legally strikes the discriminatory provisions from the original document.

"We know there are at least 300 properties in Thurston County that are impacted by this language," said Mary Hall, Thurston County Auditor. Starting in January 2019, Washington residents could file a document for no-charge at a county auditor's office to strike this language from their property title. "I'm not sure property owners are aware of this," she said.

"We are reaching out now because in the two years since we've had this no-cost option, we haven't had a single correction filed in Thurston County," Hall said. "We are assuming most people don't know about the history of these invalid racial restrictions in Thurston County or that they can eliminate them."

For landowners who are filing a restrictive covenant modification form, notary services are available free of charge at any of Olympia Federal Savings (OlyFed) seven Thurston County branches.

"We're grateful for the opportunity to partner with the auditor's office on this very important project to correct and remove these broken and incredibly disheartening covenants from our county's legal records," Lori Drummond, OlyFed President & CEO said. "This project demonstrates a community commitment to self-improvement, inclusivity and compassionate care towards our neighbors whom were not welcomed in areas of our county in the past."

For landowners who need help filling out the modification form, no-cost legal aid is available via the Thurston County Bar Association's Inclusion and Diversity Section. For a list of participating lawyers, contact tcauditor@co.thurston.wa.us

Racially restrictive covenants were recorded on some properties in Thurston County during the first half of the twentieth century. These covenants excluded specific races or religions from owning or occupying property or limited ownership or use to one race.

After a Supreme Court decision in 1948, these covenants became unenforceable. In 1968, the federal Fair Housing Act banned covenants discriminating based on race, color, religion, or national origin. A 1969 Washington state law also provides that these covenants have no legal effect.

It is possible there are additional parcels that contain racially restrictive language. Landowners who were not contacted by the Auditor's Office can find tips for researching their own properties at ThurstonAuditor.org

The above was provided today by the Thurston County Auditor. 

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