ACLU-PA Position: Supports
HB 1289 would amend Title 68 to create a new chapter that provides property owners or homeowner associations a streamlined process to repudiate unlawful restrictive covenants from their deeds. An unlawful restrictive covenant is defined as a provision that purports to restrict ownership or occupancy of real property based on a practice or policy of discrimination against individuals or groups covered under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
Rstrictive deed covenants were a tool of systemic racism that was written into deeds, barring the sale of properties to people of a particular race, ethnicity, or religious group. These covenants would prohibit the sale of a home to people of color, severely limiting the real estate options for non-white families during the early 1900s.
Racially discriminatory real estate covenants were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948 under the Shelley v. Kraemer decision, ruling that these covenants are unenforceable under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In addition, the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited deed covenants that discriminate against protected classes. Although these covenants are no longer enforceable, this harmful and discriminatory language still exists in many property deeds.
Removing this kind of racist language can be complex, costly, and may require the services of an attorney. HB 1289 creates a process to make it easy and affordable to remove discriminatory language from these documents—allowing a property owner or homeowner association to file a form with their county’s Recorder of Deeds office to strike a restrictive covenant from their deed without having to pay a fee.
HB 1289 includes two exceptions: (1) to permit religious organizations to restrict the use of the property for purposes that would be offensive to that religious organization and (2) to permit the use of an age-based covenant or restriction intended to create a senior living community.
Check the bill's status here.