Real Estate

Notarize Offers Free Notarizations To Eliminate Racial Covenants

Digital notary startup hopes to help “in the fight against real estate-based systemic racism.”

After Inman published an article last week about Seattle-based brokerage Windermere Real Estate helping homeowners strike racist language from deeds, digital notary startup Notarize immediately wanted to lend a hand.

The company set up a landing page on its site Friday to host Windermere’s Restrictive Covenant Modification Form and allow homeowners to complete the form and have it notarized free of charge. Homeowners can use the form to eliminate restrictive racial covenants that became virtually ubiquitous in the early 20th century and prevented people of color — and, in some cases, people of Southern or Eastern European ancestry — from buying, renting or occupying certain properties or developments.

They included language such as “No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage, or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property” or “This property shall not be resold, leased, rented or occupied except to or by persons of the Aryan race.”

Windermere has created educational materials detailing how homeowners can remove racially restrictive language from their chain of title in seven of the 10 states the brokerage operates in where there is a process in place to remove the language: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. So far, Notarize is hosting the document for Washington State and said Windermere is sending the others, which will be live “shortly,” Notarize spokesperson Cristin Culver told Inman via email.

“At Notarize, we’re inspired and thankful for Windermere’s leadership on this issue,” she said.

“Notarize supports activities to bridge the digital divide of those unserved and underserved,” she added. “As part of this digital inclusion effort, Notarize is offering free remote online notarizations to citizens looking to strike restrictive covenants from property deeds and assist in the fight against real estate-based systemic racism.”

Windermere spokesperson Shelley Rossi told Inman that it was “very generous” of Notarize to offer the free notarizations and that the company had also asked Windermere to speak about its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at a virtual event in April. She will also be speaking with the CEO of the St. Louis Association of Realtors in Missouri, who contacted her after reading Inman’s article, on Wednesday.

“And the head of the NWMLS, which is the MLS that services Western Washington, called me late last week to talk about our efforts and to see if he could share the forms we created with his board and other members,” Rossi said. “Of course we said yes. If a company wants to take what we created and put their logo on it, we’re all for it. It’s all for the greater good.”

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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