A federal judge has signed a consent order preventing a recorder of deeds in Ohio from registering deeds that include racially restrictive covenants, and requiring the recorder to make it known that such deeds are illegal, the Justice Department said yesterday.
The department's agreement with the recorder of deeds in Delaware County, Ohio, marks the second time it has moved against racially restrictive covenants. On Dec. 7, the department's civil rights division filed civil suits in Houston against the Harris County recorder of deeds and a local subdivision with covenants aimed at preventing blacks from owning homes there. However, the Harris County recorder refused to stop recording the deeds, saying she lacked legal authority to do so.
The consent order signed Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Duncan requires the recorder in the Ohio case to notify title insurance companies that such covenants are invalid under federal law and will not be accepted by the courthouse. The recorder also must "prominently affix" to each volume of deeds -- as well as to each deed -- a statement that racially restrictive provisions are invalid under federal law and are unenforceable.
According to the agreement, the statement will read: "Provisions contained in any deed or other instrument for the conveyance of a dwelling which restrict the sale, rental or use of the property because of race or color are invalid under federal law and are unenforceable."
Racially restrictive covenants in deeds have been illegal since passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. But the Justice Department did not file suit in such a case until this month because the covenants were only recently brought to the department's attention, according to Joseph Krovisky, a spokesman at Justice.
The Ohio case stemmed from complaints that covenants filed with the clerk prevented blacks from owning or renting homes in several areas of Delaware County, according to a department lawyer.