Real Estate Agent Magazine Law and Ethics Honesty and Reconciliation

Honesty and Reconciliation

In 1948, the Supreme Court issued an important ruling regarding restrictive covenants in real estate transactions. Now, almost seventy years later,

REALTORS(r) are revisiting that past in order to ensure equal housing opportunity for all.
Warning: This article and any of its embedded historic documents contain offensive and inappropriate racial language.

Seventy-five years after Shelley v. Kraemer, the long shadow of racially restrictive covenants still looms large over our nation. These explicitly discriminatory clauses were written into property deeds to restrict racial, ethnic, and religious minorities from owning and occupying certain properties – reinforcing segregation and inequality across America.

In 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelley decision held that racially restrictive covenants were unenforceable in court but upheld discriminatory provisions in private agreements – something which wasn’t altered until 1968 when Fair Housing Act was implemented – yet discriminatory language remains prevalent today and regularly reappears during real estate transactions.

Today, the National Association of REALTORS(r) and its members are actively lobbying for laws to address restrictive covenants found in real estate documents. At the same time, through its Fair Housing Action Plan: ACT! (act stands for accountability, culture change and training), it’s taking on board their legacy as well as its own role in their use.

Documents from NAR’s archive reveal that, at one point, NAR supported covenants. After Shelley passed, some members considered pushing for constitutional changes as well.

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