Does civil rights violation make all covenants void

by Marlin
(Seven points texas uss)

Visitor Question: Do all covenants become void if one covenant is now illegal? The City Council is telling me that since our documents still have the Caucasian only covenant that it makes all our covenants void.

Editors Reply: No, we can say pretty confidently that if case law makes racially restrictive covenants void, all other covenants survive and are binding.

As you know, many years ago now the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the once-common covenants excluding people on a racial or religious basis. If you or others need more background on this, see a page we wrote about the outlawing of this practice.

We say we are "pretty confident" as opposed to 100 percent confident for two reasons: (a) none of us involved in writing this site are licensed to practice law, and (b) it is remotely possible that some judge somewhere has interpreted the case law to mean just what your city council is telling you it means. But we just feel quite sure we're giving you good advice here.

So now why is your City Council telling you this? They could just be ignorant of the facts and the larger legal context of deed restrictions. Or we could think there is a more cynical motive for giving you this idea, and perhaps there is a reason that they wouldn't want to see your other covenants in effect.

Generally we believe in giving others the benefit of the doubt, but their idea on this seems so off base that we tend toward being skeptical here.

If you and your neighbors want to preserve some of your other covenants not involving race or some protected class under federal law, and you are being harassed by your city government, you might have to try to enact the covenants again.

A well-drafted set of deed restrictions will tell how the restrictions can be lifted or amended. Read through them to understand this procedure. (If you don't have a copy, your county clerk or whatever the comparable official is called in Texas can help you find them.)

Then if this question is important enough to you, and if you feel that the City Council somehow will prevail in your town, you might have to talk with an attorney to have the covenants drafted again. This time of course you would leave out any racial restrictions.

If the importance of this matter to you and your community doesn't seem to warrant the expense of paying an attorney, you can just go ahead and act as if the other covenants are still in force. We don't think you can go wrong by operating this way.

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