Hector De La Torre, the son of Mexican immigrants, was dismayed when he discovered a piece of paper in his property records that would have prevented him from buying his home when it was built in 1948. What he found was a racially restrictive covenant. It had no legal standing, but it stung nonetheless, he said. "If you believe the old adage of a man's home is his castle, would you want that stain upon your castle?" said the Democratic state Assemblyman from working class South Gate in suburban Los Angeles. Such covenants are rampant in property records around the United States even though the US Supreme Court and Congress rendered them toothless long ago. De La Torre and others say the symbolic language still lurking should be stricken from the books altogether - a move county governments and the housing industry say could cost millions of dollars. That's why De La Torre recently introduced legislation calling for the offensive language to be purged whenever property changes hands.