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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: April 10, 2023 02:35 PM
From: Representative Justin C. Fleming
To: All House members
Subject: Removing Racially Restrictive Deed Covenants
A restrictive deed covenant was 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. That is why I intend to introduce legislation to make it easy and affordable to remove discriminatory language from these documents. My legislation allows 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. The legislation also provides reimbursement for the cost incurred by county recorders.
These racist covenants continue to perpetuate the pain of segregation for those who may read them. Through this legislation, we can provide a legal mechanism to eradicate this discriminatory language in Pennsylvania and help homeowners and homeowner associations file the paperwork to remove it from their property records.
Please consider joining me in co-sponsoring this important legislation and commit to achieving racial justice for all.

Introduced as HB1289