Assembly Bill 1466 (AB-1466) was one of 31 housing-related bills passed back in September, 2021—a package that the Governor’s office stated was focused on “streamlining the building of new homes, breaking down barriers to build more affordable housing, addressing systematic bias by elevating fair housing principles and holding local governments accountable to do their job.”
AB-1466 specifically requires the county recorder to implement a program to locate and redact “unlawfully restrictive covenants” from property records. The bill also mandates that a “Restrictive Covenant Modification” request made by a property owner be reviewed by County Counsel in a timely manner.
What is a Restrictive Covenant?
Unlawful restrictive language is prevalent in property records—this can include discrimination against race, color, religion, sex, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, veteran or military status or genetic information.
A “restrictive covenant” is a phrase within a property record that discriminates against an individual using any of the restrictive language mentioned.
Passed in September, counties were required to have a plan in place before July of this year. Counties are also required to provide a status report before January 1, 2023, and will provide a follow-up status report by January 1, 2025.
The bill also required all recorders of each county to prepare an implementation plan in advance of July 1, 2022, while also requiring counties to have identified unlawfully restrictive covenants by that date.
County recorders will also be convening on an annual basis to discuss best practices and implementation strategies that have been successful.
While it varies by county, most documents were handwritten until 1907. Handwritten documents have traditionally been manually inspected by county staff, since Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) struggles with many types of handwriting.
Another variable is that many of these property records exist on microfilm and have to be digitized. While that is an undertaking by itself, the digitized microfilm will also have to be run through a complex text identification process that can locate restrictive language.
Furthermore, not all words that match a keyword search are truly a restrictive covenant. The term “Oriental Rug” may trigger a match, but the phrase itself isn’t one that would be required to be redacted. While there may be thousands of matches for a keyword search for restrictive language, each one will have to be verified to determine if it is a restrictive covenant or not.
Once restrictive covenants have been verified, an original version (unredacted) and a redacted version of the entire document must be provided to County Counsel for review.
Tools to Locate & Redact Efficiently
The combination of OCR software and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with machine learning is a powerful duo that can quickly and accurately locate restrictive language in text form. The more searches and redactions that are successfully executed, the quicker the AI will learn to identify restrictive covenants.
That being said, the verification process is still a manual process that requires a human to distinguish between a word that matches a restrictive covenant search and a phrase that is actually discriminatory.
Handwriting Recognition is another feature being offered by Western Integrated Systems, a feature called Image Character Recognition (ICR) that offers a wide variety of variations in letters and words that traditional OCR can miss. Most documents before 1907 were handwritten, so this can fast-track what can be an extremely tedious process.
How Can We Help Your County?
Western Integrated Systems has been providing digital transformation solutions for its customers for more than 40 years. We’ve worked with a long list of state and government clients to help implement solutions that improve workflows, automate manual processes and reduce your reliance on paper.
Let us work with your County to help address AB-1466, we have a full suite of products and services that can streamline the task of locating and redacting restrictive covenants. Depending on what your needs are, we can provide an in-house solution to help with AB-1466, or perform the digitization and redaction ourselves at our secure imaging center in Fairfield, CA.
Our products and services include:
*Digitization of microfilm/microfiche
*OCR software to quickly locate and redact records
*Handwriting Recognition software for handwritten records
*Scanning & redaction of property records
*Hardware for on-site ingestion of documents
*Document management systems to store and route records
*Records Management consulting to promote executable retention schedules
Want to Learn More?
If you’re a County Clerk-Recorder or part of County Counsel, complying with AB-1466 can seem daunting. Let us help! Give us a call at (866) 736-2191 or send us an email (email@example.com) to get the conversation started.