A property deed is used to transfer ownership of property to another party. The document will be used in the home buying process. By signing this form, the property will be conveyed from the grantor or seller to the grantee or buyer. Requirements for this document may vary from state to state.
All property deeds must be written in order to be official. A verbal agreement is not sufficient. Only parties who are mentally competent can complete the form. If the property is owned by more than one person, all parties involved must provide their information and sign the form.
Typical information required includes full name, current address, and contact information. There will also be a section for property information, which can include address, current value, and type of dwelling. The final section should include financial information and the terms of the sale.
Here is our guide to property deeds. As you’ll see, property deeds often contain restrictive covenants that limit the use and sale of a property. Historically, covenants were used to maintain racially segregated neighborhoods. Today, covenants are used to restrict a wide range of far more benign elements of homeownership. This guide walks you through identifying any restrictive covenants in your own deed, how to ensure compliance with those restrictions, and how to challenge any you deem unfair.
A restrictive housing covenant is an agreement between the property owner and other parties--neighbors, potential buyers, etc.--that limits how a property can be used and to whom a property can be sold. Typically, restrictive covenants are written into the deed directly or is referenced if the deed is held on file in the county or municipal government office or homeowner’s association (HOA).
Restrictive covenants apply to the property itself, rather than the owner who signs the agreement. Therefore, covenants remain legally binding in the event of the property’s sale.
Today, HOA’s, developer, builders, etc. use covenants to protect property values in residential developments. For example, covenant’s may restrict or guide home additions, exterior paint color, whether or not you can add a pool, etc.
While most modern uses of covenant’s are benign, the history of restrictive covenants is far more noxious. For much of the 20th century, restrictive covenants were used to enforce and maintain racially segregated neighborhoods.
By the late-1800s, just about every city in the US utilized race-based zoning laws. The federal government institutionalized racial covenants in the mid-1930s with the establishment of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA).
While the Supreme Court banned racial housing covenants in 1948, it would take another two decades, with the passage of the Fair Housing Act (1968), before racial discrimination in housing was truly prohibited. In the years leading up to the Fair Housing Act, several states, including California, passed ballot initiatives protecting white homeowners’ rights to discriminate in the sale or lease of their home. Those initiatives, however, were typically thrown out by the Supreme Court.
Because they were written directly into property deeds, racial and restrictive covenants still appear in property documents across the country, despite the fact that they are unenforceable and unconstitutional.
It is important that homeowners read through their property deed(s) and search for any language related to a restrictive covenant. If you find one, be sure you can comply with the existing covenants and that they are fair and constitutional.
Begin by ensuring if any covenant on your deed is enforceable. Racial covenants, for example, are not enforceable. Additionally, many covenants have expiration dates. If your deed contains an expired covenant, it is no longer valid.
With that in mind, be careful about violating current covenants. If you choose to simply ignore a legal one, you risk a neighbor or your HOA taking legal action against you.
If you have a restrictive covenant in your property deed you wish to remove, you can take your grievance to your HOA. However, they are unlikely to help you. It is the job of your HOA, after all, to enforce covenants.
Some HOAs, however, may permit you circumvent a restrictive covenant without having to go through the protracted legal process of removing it. For example, they may grant you a waiver. If, on the other hand, you wish to deviate only slightly from a restriction, an HOA can usually grant a variance. For example, an HOA may grant a variance for a fence height slightly above the community limit, or for a color a shade darker (or lighter) than the allotted options.
If your HOA refuses to grant a waiver or restriction, you can take legal action against the HOA. In this scenario, a judge will decide whether or not to amend the deed. If you elect to resist your covenant in cour, you will need the following:
There is one final option: indemnity insurance. Indemnity insurance protects homeowners in the event the owner violates the covenant and the beneficiary takes legal action to enforce it. Indemnity insurance can cover the following: alterations made to the landowners property, the reduction in value of the landowners property, general damages or compensation.
The history of restrictive covenants is unsavory. While the Supreme Court has outlawed the most discriminatory elements of covenants, deed restrictions nonetheless remain commonplace for homeowners. We hope this guide provides a detailed overview on how to comply with, or challenge, covenants tied to your own property.
Our team at FormSwift wanted to determine the relationship between segregation and gun violence in top US metropolitan areas. To do this, we calculated a Segregation Score and a Gun Violence Score for each metropolitan area. Our segregation score was determined by evenly weighting the following factors into a total: Black-White segregation index number (2005-2009 Census Bureau Data), percentage of Black Americans living in predominantly white neighborhoods, segregation dissimilarity rate and segregation isolation rate (2010 data from the Manhattan institute). Our gun violence score was calculated as the sum of the rate of firearm suicides and homicides in all age groups (2009-2010 Census Bureau Data). We charted these scores as well as created a ranking by metro area based on the combined totals.
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