For Immediate Release
County Recorder announces search for vendors to help identify illegal restrictions in recorded documents
SANTA ROSA, CA | April 10, 2023
The Sonoma County Recorder announced today a search for vendors to help identify, redact and report more than 24 million previously recorded documents for illegal, often-racially restrictive language.
This Request for Proposals is for restrictive covenant modification program services. A restrictive covenant is a restriction placed on property for use. In the early part of the 20th century, it was common for restrictive covenants on properties to include racially restrictive language. This would prevent people of color from purchasing, renting or using property (unless as a servant). It was especially common in the 1930s and 1940s to see this type of language on documents. In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the enforcement of racially restrictive covenants as unconstitutional.
Certain restrictive covenants are illegal and void under existing federal law and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. These illegal restrictions pertain to age, race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status, disability, veteran or military status, national origin, source of income as defined in subdivision (p) of California Government Code Section 12955, or ancestry. However, unlawful restrictive covenants still exist in the record itself as it was presented and recorded at that time in the past. Most property owners would only see this document when they are asked to sign a disclosure as part of the escrow process, pledging to ignore any unlawful restrictive covenant. The County Recorder accomplished a preliminary manual search of recorded documents and identified that instances of illegal restrictive language do occur within historical records.
In 2021, the passing of Assembly Bill 1466 in California made changes to the restrictive covenant modification process. The law imposes a state-mandated local program and opens the ability to all, including county recorders, to submit documents for recording and to redact illegal restrictive language in the new recording. As part of the new processes, the Sonoma County Recorder’s Office is required to create a Restrictive Covenant Modification Program that includes the following:
- Identify unlawfully restrictive covenants
- Redact unlawfully restrictive covenants
- Track and maintain a record of properties with identified unlawfully restrictive covenants
- Index recorded Restrictive Covenant Modification documents and make the index available to the public
- Maintain the original non-redacted recorded documents
- Provide status reports to the County Recorders Association of California within specified deadlines.
The release of the Request for Proposals will allow for vendors to compete and offer the County Recorder the best services available to automate these processes and complete a thorough review of and identify as many documents as possible.
For more information on the Restrictive Covenant Modification Program Implementation Plan, please visit sonomacounty.ca.gov/recorder.