California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959, the Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1959, and the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 all prohibit housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and familial status. For more information about protections from discriminatory housing, visit San Mateo County Fair Housing’s website.
Despite current federal and state laws, some subdivisions throughout the nation, state, and County of San Mateo that were developed prior to the passage of fair housing laws have covenants on record that contain restrictions that were outlawed by legislation in the 1960s. Even though the restrictions are now illegal and unenforceable, any person who has an ownership interest in real property that is subject to racially or otherwise unlawfully restrictive covenants has the right to record a Restrictive Covenant Modification. The process is outlined in Government Code Section 12956.2.
How do I find a copy of my Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC & Rs)?
The easiest way to learn more about the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC & Rs) that affect your property is to review the title report you received from the title company when you purchased your property. You should have received a title report as part of the seller’s disclosure packet, which included information about annual property taxes and any outstanding liens on the property. The title company that completed the title search likely provided you with a complete copy of the CC & Rs. If your title report mentions recorded CC & Rs but you were not provided with a copy of them, you may view the recorded document in the Clerk-Recorder Division located at 555 County Center, 1st Floor, Redwood City, during business hours of 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. You may purchase a copy of the original Deed recorded with restrictions while you’re in the office if needed. Alternately, you may order a copy of the Deed by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you cannot find a reference for CC & Rs mentioned in your title report, you may review the legal description for your property to locate a reference to a recorded map, which may provide you with a recording reference for CC & Rs.
What can I do if I discover I have racially or otherwise unlawful restrictions recorded on my property?
As prescribed by Government Code 12956.2, you may record a Restrictive Covenant Modification. Although the Clerk-Recorder Division staff members are happy to provide you with as much information as possible about the process, under California law, staff members are prohibited from providing legal advice or assisting with document preparation.
You can find recording requirements prescribed by the California Recorders’ Association here. You will note that requirements include attaching a full copy of the restrictions with the unlawful verbiage stricken. In addition, the submitter (property owner) must sign the document in front of a notary public. The completed document may be submitted to the Clerk-Recorder Division, who will refer the document to County Counsel staff for approval prior to recording. After approval by County Counsel, the document will be recorded for no fee and returned to the submitter within a few weeks.
What can I do if I have more questions about the process?
If you have additional questions about recording a Restrictive Covenant Modification, contact the Clerk-Recorder Division by e-mail, or call 650.363.4500 during business hours (Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) As stated previously, Clerk-Recorder Division staff members are prohibited by California law from providing advice or guidance about how to complete documents for recording.
Restrictive Covenant Program Implementation Plan
Pursuant to Assembly Bill (AB) 1466 and California Government Code Section 12956.3, the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder’s Office has developed the following Restrictive Covenant Program Implementation Plan.
Our office has approximately 25 million documents in the official records. The initial process will be the identification of documents containing unlawfully restrictive language contained in our records. This will be accomplished by utilizing existing redaction and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to scan records to identify potential restrictive language. Identified records will be routed through the process detailed below, and when appropriate, a redacted version will be recorded. Our goal is to complete the identification and review of existing documents containing unlawfully restrictive language, and the recording of the corresponding Restrictive Covenant Modification documents with the appropriate redactions, by the end of December 2027.
Process The Restrictive Covenant Modification Program will provide the following:
- Identification and location of documents that contain unlawfully restrictive language either through an electronic OCR process, or manually for older handwritten documents.
- Staff review of documents identified to contain potential unlawfully restrictive language.
- Submission of Restrictive Covenant Modification documents to County Counsel for review and approval/disapproval.
- Documents verified to contain unlawfully restrictive language will be redacted and an approval packet created.
- Recordation and indexing of the approved Restrictive Covenant Modification document.
Tracking and Public Access
The newly recorded Restrictive Covenant Modification documents will be tracked and available for review in our Official Records Index. The recorded document will be identified in the index by the title “Restrictive Covenant Modification.”
The proposed redacted Restrictive Covenant Modification documents that were not approved by County Counsel will be tracked in a CCR spreadsheet and will be made available upon request.