Restrictive Covenant Modification
Declarations of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R) are disclosure documents that are often found when buying a home in a planned community. The stated purpose of these covenants, or rules and regulations, is to protect the value of the homes and quality of life within that community. In addition to CC&Rs, many older land title documents such as deeds and deeds of trust also included covenants which restricted the use and occupancy of real property, oftentimes dictating the race, gender, or sexual orientation of the buyer.
Restrictive covenants were an effective way to segregate neighborhoods and stabilize the property values of white families. These restrictive covenants became common after 1926 when the U.S. Supreme Court validated their use in the case of Corrigan v. Buckley, and beginning in 1934, the Federal Housing Authority recommended the inclusion of restrictive covenants in the deeds of homes it insured. These racially restrictive covenants made it illegal for many races other than Caucasian to purchase, lease or rent homes in white communities. In 1948, through the Shelley v. Kraemer decision, the Supreme Court declared that racial restrictions could no longer be enforced, though it remained legal for realtors and property owners to discriminate based on race. In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, finally outlawing discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity in the sale or rental of housing. Since then, it has been illegal to act on the race restrictions that are still embedded in recorded documents today.
Removal of Unlawful Discriminatory Covenants from Property Documents
Prior to July 1, 2022, only a person who held an ownership interest of record in a property was eligible to submit a Restrictive Covenant Modification Form with the unlawfully restrictive language stricken.
Beginning July 1, 2022, pursuant to Assembly Bill 1466 and Government Code Section 12956.2, any person, including County Recorders, Title Companies and the general public who believes a recorded document contains an unlawfully restrictive covenant in violation of subdivision (l) of Government Code Section 12955 may record a document titled Restrictive Covenant Modification. Unlawful restrictions include those restrictions based on age, race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status, disability, veteran or military status, genetic information, national origin, source of income as defined in subdivision Section 12955, or ancestry.
Assembly Bill 1466 also requires County Recorders to develop a plan to identify and redact restrictive covenant documents with illegal language in their historical records. Upon the discovery of such a document, the County Recorder shall redact the illegal language by rerecording the document as a Restrictive Covenant Modification with the illegal language masked so that it is no longer readable. The San Francisco Assessor-Recorder’s Office has developed an approach to identify, review, redact, rerecord, and track documents containing restrictive covenants in its Official Record in accordance with California Government Code Section 12956.3.
Steps to Recording a Restrictive Covenant Modification
- Obtain a complete copy of the original document containing the unlawfully restrictive language from the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder’s Official Public Records. You can obtain a copy from our office by following this link.
- Locate and strike out any unlawfully restrictive language in the original document.
- Complete and print the Restrictive Covenant Modification form.
- Submit the completed Restrictive Covenant Modification form and a full copy of the original document with the unlawful verbiage stricken to the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder's Office, attention Recording Division Manager. No fee is required for this service.
- The San Francisco Assessor-Recorder's Office will forward the Restrictive Covenant Modification form and the original document to the City Attorney’s Office who will determine whether the original document contains any unlawful restrictions.
- The City Attorney’s Office will review and return the documents to the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder's Office along with its determination. If the City Attorney’s Office determines that the original document contains the unlawful restrictions as indicated by the stricken language, a Deputy City Attorney will sign the Restrictive Covenant Modification, and the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder's Office will record it. However, if the City Attorney’s Office finds that the original document does not contain an unlawful restriction, then the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder's Office will not record the Restrictive Covenant Modification.
- Once the approved Restrictive Covenant Modification is recorded, imaged, and indexed, it will be returned to the submitter by mail.
NOTE: The San Francisco Assessor-Recorder's Office is strictly prohibited from altering, changing, obliterating, or inserting new matters into any historical documents that have already been recorded into our Official Public Records.