Today, state Senator Hearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus) and Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor announced that they will champion legislation to give property owners the freedom to redact discriminatory language from their online housing documents.
“As a veteran and state Senator, I have sworn an oath to protect our country’s fundamental values of freedom and equality, which are important for ensuring a high quality of life for everyone,” Craig said. “Discriminatory language in deeds and other housing documents undermines our progress as a community and nation. Redacting it is a simple step we can take to further thoughtful dialogue within our communities and show potential residents and businesses that we are not stuck in the shadows of our past.”
Similar legislation, House Bill 412 of the 132nd General Assembly, had already been sponsored by then Rep. Craig in 2017, after O’Connor discovered racially discriminatory language that barred African Americans, Jews and others from owning a home in some neighborhoods in Franklin County. This was despite the fact that housing discrimination had been unlawful and unenforceable since a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court ruling and the enactment of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
This year’s operating budget included an amendment, offered by Craig, allowing an attorney to omit discriminatory, now-void covenants – which are found in thousands of property documents – from new deeds. It also provides attorneys with immunity from civil liability when they make these changes.
“We knew this amendment had bipartisan support and was a much-needed first step,” said Craig. “However, you shouldn’t need an attorney to get rid of racist and discriminatory language in a deed. That is why I am excited that this amendment opens the door for drastic changes in language that are already unconstitutional.”
Under current Ohio law, county recorders are not authorized to edit documents once they have been recorded, regardless of the content. The language in the operating budget continues to limit the roles county recorders can play in the process. However, the legislation proposed by Craig and O’Connor would specifically allow property owners, attorneys, title companies and other agents authorized to do business in Ohio to notify their recorder’s office of a potential restrictive covenant and give the recorder permission to redact a restrictive covenant from an online version of the property document. The original document would still be held for historical purposes.
“We are looking forward to reintroducing legislation with Sen. Craig that empowers homeowners to redact discriminatory restrictive covenants from online property records through their county recorder’s office,” said O’Connor. “These covenants contributed to the racial segregation of neighborhoods and have no place in modern day real estate documents.”
The announcement comes amidst increased public discourse about the need to remember parts of our nation’s history that have been overshadowed by discrimination, hate and racism while continuing to push for progress toward equity.