How to Modify a Racial Covenant

Unfortunately under State law, you cannot "delete" old documents with a racially restrictive covenants. However, you can "modify" the document by recording a new document that strikes the illegal provision. Pursuant to Government Code Section 12956.2 property owners may file a Restrictive Covenant Modification form that effectively records over the impermissible covenant and removes the offensive covenant from any subsequent documents that would be sent to future buyers. 

1. Find the Restrictive Covenant

a. Look at Your Title Report. The easiest way to find a restrictive covenant is by looking at a title report that you received when purchasing your site or refinancing. The document should have pages where it lists any liens, easements and restrictions. If there is a document with restrictions or a deed contains restrictions, it should be called out. See this example where a restrictive covenant is specifically listed. If you do not see any restrictive covenants listed, it is likely that you do not have any racially restrictive covenant recorded for your site. 

b. Look at Map Below. If you do not have a title report, you can look at our map below to see if you live in an area that is known to have racially restrictive covenants. Or, you may obtain a title report from a title company to find restrictive covenants that may be recorded for your site. Or, contact Planning Department staff and we can suggest other ways to research recorded documents for your site.

2. Obtain A Copy of the Covenant. Any restrictive covenants may be obtained online or in person from the Marin County Recorder’s Office. Contact Planning Department staff if you need help completing the online document order form.

3. Complete the Marin County Recorder’s Office Restrictive Covenant Modification Form. Make a copy of the restrictive covenant document and cross out the specific racial restriction that you want stricken. Bring the completed but unsigned form to a notary for signing and notarization. Locally, you may visit Postal Services Plus at 706 San Anselmo Avenue. 

4. Deliver the signed and notarized Restrictive Covenant Modification form and the copy of the deed to the Marin County Recorder’s Office in San Rafael. The Recorder will refer the document to Marin County Counsel staff for approval prior to recording.  After approval by County Counsel, the document will be recorded for no fee and returned to you within a few weeks.

Optional: Add a Welcoming Covenant

An alternative or additional option is to add a covenant with language that acknowledges the racist clause, repudiates the unlawful clause and states instead that neighbors of all races and ethnicities are welcomed with enthusiasm. Richard Rothstein in The Color of Law  suggests:

We, [your name], owners of the property at [your address], acknowledge that this deed includes an unenforceable, unlawful, and morally repugnant clause excluding [races, ethnicities] from this neighborhood. We repudiate this clause and are ashamed for our country that many once considered it acceptable, and state that we welcome with enthusiasm and without reservation neighbors of all races and ethnicities.