It’s illegal to alter original property deeds in Ohio, so documents for many homes built before the Fair Housing Act still contain discriminatory language. Those restrictions are now unenforceable, but can still be offensive.
A new bill in the Ohio House would allow online deeds to be updated.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and supported by Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor. It would let property owners, attorney, and title companies notify their county recorder’s office about discriminatory language and have it redacted from online versions of the deed.
Even if it’s unenforceable, O’Connor supports redacting language excluding people of certain races or religions from owning land. He says it can be found in tens of millions of housing ownership papers in Franklin County alone.
For example, O’Connor pointed to deeds in Upper Arlington that would not allow the transfer of ownership to African Americans.
“They had to enact and engage in putting specific language there was intent here in these neighborhoods to in their eyes protect the homes and protect the neighborhood from being purchased by these individuals," O'Connor says.
Some have suggested that the original language should be maintained to remind people of a neighborhood’s history, sordid or not.