American Indian Owned Law Firm

New law addresses racist covenants in Oklahoma property documents

On Behalf of | Aug 10, 2023 | Commercial Real Estate Transactions & Leasing

Those purchasing residential and commercial property in Oklahoma may be shocked to find remnants of another time codified in land documents via racially restrictive covenants. Although those covenants were ruled unconstitutional over 70 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court and are unenforceable, some property owners would prefer their plat (map) or other property records to be free of such language altogether.

Now, thanks to a law signed this spring by Gov. Kevin Stitt that takes effect on Nov. 1, property owners can file a declaration with their local county clerk to have the language “extinguished and severed from the recorded real estate conveyance or instrument.”

The declaration is known as a “repudiation” document that will be included with the property’s public land records stating that any racist covenants are “null and void.” It also allows future copies of documents to be printed with that language removed. A handful of other states from California to Florida have enacted similar laws.

New law was inspired by one Oklahoma business owner

The state representative who was the legislation’s lead author said he read an article about a man in Edmond who found such a covenant in the plat of the property he was buying to expand his business. It read, in part, “No person of any race, other than the Caucasian or American Indian shall ever own, use, or occupy any land or structure [with the exception of] domestic servants of a different race….”

The business owner, who is Black, said, “That language really offended me…and it should offend anybody of any race that’s being excluded only because of the color of their skin.” He says he intends to file the repudiation document as soon as the law takes effect. However, he displays a copy of the plat on the wall of his business as a “reminder of Edmond’s past.”

While he’d like to see these covenants removed from all land documents, others note that this would be considerably costly and burdensome for the state. They see this new law as a “step in the right direction,” as Edmond’s current (and first Black) mayor puts it.

Many people don’t bother to read the language in any of their land records or other documents. You can find some surprising things if you do. If you have concerns or questions about restrictive covenants or anything else in your commercial property documents, it’s wise to get legal guidance.