MAR Advocates to Protect Homebuyers from Discrimination

July 8, 2021

- By The MAR Legal Team

On July 1st, the Land Court announced approval of Standing Order 2-21, a new rule that makes it easier to remove discriminatory restrictive covenants from real estate deeds starting October 1st. MAR advocated in support of the standing order, providing comments to the Court explaining REALTORS® commitment to removing discrimination from the homebuying process and the stress discriminatory clauses can cause our members and their clients.   

Restrictive Covenants 

Today we are unfortunately still dealing with the fallout of historic real estate discrimination. Restrictive covenants, though fairly rare, still exist in the state. A restrictive covenant is discriminatory language in a deed, limiting its transfer based on certain characteristics, such as race or religion. Thankfully, these types of covenants are not enforceable and can be removed from deeds, but even seeing them can be upsetting. 

Standing Order 2-21 

New Land Court Standing Order 2-21 provides three new tools for removing restrictive covenants: 

  1. The registry can remove unambiguous restrictive covenants. If the registry is unsure whether language qualifies as a restrictive covenant, they can seek guidance from the Chief Title Examiner. 
  2.  If the restrictive covenant is in a document presented for registration other than the certificate or memorandum, the registry will notify the presenting party and request the document’s resubmission without the offending language. If the party does not follow this recommendation, the standing order empowers the registry to get a formal court order permitting removal of the restrictive covenant from the document. 
  3. Landowners and others with interest in land can file a free special complaint with the Land Court to determine whether the land is subject to a restrictive covenant and, declare void any that are found 

Finally, the standing order requires new boilerplate language for all transfer certificates of title and memoranda of unit ownership explaining that restrictive covenants are void. 

MAR is proud of this step and remains committed to fighting housing discrimination and promoting Fair Housing in Massachusetts.