New law allows Illinois landlords to remove racist language from deeds

  • A new law in Illinois allows residents to request the removal of racist language from their acts.
  • Race pacts were common in the 20th century as a means of resisting integration.
  • Although banned decades ago, they can be found on acts all over the United States, NPR found.

Illinois homeowners can now have racist language removed from their property titles thanks to a new law that took effect January 1.

The law, Public Law 102-0110, deals with covenants that explicitly prohibited minority groups from buying or renting property. Covenants were common in the 20th century, as some sought to prevent integration by preventing black Americans from settling in traditionally white neighborhoods.

In 1948 the Supreme Court ruled that such covenants violated the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment and in 1968 they were explicitly made illegal under the Fair Housing Act.

Despite being banned decades ago, race pacts remain on property deeds across the United States, an NPR investigation published in November found. But altering these records can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, which has prompted states like Illinois to pass laws to make the process easier.

One of the first people to begin the process under the new Illinois law was Nicole Sullivan, a white mother of four and resident of Mundelein. Sullivan has been trying to remove racist language from her act since 2011, The New York Times reported.

Sullivan noted that the deed to his home included the following clause: “The said premises shall never be sold, transferred, or leased to any person or persons of African or black race, Japanese, Chinese, Jew or Hebrew, or their descendants, or authorized to be occupied by any of these persons.”

The deed provided an exception for servants of the landlord or tenant.

“It’s a document that continues to harm people, it continues to harm people psychologically and to harm relationships and trust in our community,” Sullivan told WBEZ.

After hitting roadblocks trying to change his own act, Sullivan and a neighbor teamed up to pressure lawmakers to pass legislation to address the issue. Governor JB Pritzker signed the bill into law in July.

Eric Rinehart, the Lake County State’s Attorney working on Sullivan’s case, told WBEZ, “I’m happy to begin cleaning up these legal documents of very immoral and illegal language.”

According to The Times, at least 13 states have passed similar laws since 2018, with one currently awaiting action in the New York State Legislature.

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