TLTA is closely following concerns relating to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the impact on our members and their customers. We are here for you every step of the way, working to find tools and solutions for the many challenges you are facing as you work to close real estate transactions and manage your operations during this crisis.


What is TLTA doing to assist you?

New COVID-19 updates vital to you and your business are coming out daily. We know it’s a lot to keep up with and we are committed to keeping you informed. Please check this webpage regularly for up-to-the minute changes.

We have heard from many of you and remain eager to hear what challenges you are facing and about creative solutions you have developed. TLTA is equipped and ready to be an effective information clearinghouse and advocate, so please share your concerns, ideas and success stories with us at tlta@tlta.com

TDI Compliance

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis TLTA has been working with TDI to relax requirements in several key areas. Several important bulletins and announcements are available on the page below. As we receive additional guidance from TDI, we will keep you informed. Please share your concerns about potential compliance issues with us at tlta@tlta.com.


Remote Ink-Signed Notarization (RIN)

Gov. Abbott Grants TLTA's Request for Extension of Emergency RIN Order (June 30, 2020)

Indefinite Extension to Continue Through Conclusion of COVID-19 Public Health Threat

On Monday, June 29, TLTA sent a letter to Gov. Abbott requesting he modify the emergency executive action that allows the temporary use of Remote Ink Notarization (RIN) in Texas. On Tuesday, June 30, the governor's office informed us that they have granted our request for an indefinite extension.
 
In the TLTA request approved by the governor on Tuesday, June 30, we asked the governor to modify the temporary suspension of state notary statute that allows for RIN by extending the termination date of that suspension to mirror the governor's April 9 order addressing remote notarizations for a self-proved will, a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a directive to physician, or an oath of an executor, administrator, or guardian.

The RIN extension granted by Gov. Abbott on Tuesday accomplishes our request, extending the emergency use of RIN until terminated by the Office of the Governor or until the March 13, 2020 disaster declaration is lifted or expires.  
  
Giving Texas consumers the opportunity to continue choosing RIN until we are clear of this unprecedented public health threat will further enhance our industry's ability to serve the public with great efficiency and safety. Since the governor granted our original request, title professionals have worked within the guidelines made part of the suspension with success and confidence in its security, helping ensure the integrity of real estate transactions statewide. 
  
We are grateful that the governor granted our request, and we salute his leadership during this unprecedented public health crisis. 
 
Following TLTA's initial request in April, Gov. Abbott temporarily suspended traditional notary regulations to allow for temporary use of RIN under COVID-19 public health protocols. Under RIN, a "wet signature" is still used, but the signature is witnessed by a notary via video and audio channels, and the notary seal is affixed at a later time.

This is the second extension of the governor's emergency RIN order. When the initial suspension expired at the end of May, the governor granted TLTA's request for the first extension, which expired June 30. Our request to extend the termination date to June 30 was approved by emergency executive action via email communication between the offices of the governor and our state's attorney general. That's the same mechanism employed by the governor's office when emergency use of RIN was first approved in April, and it is the same process by which the emergency suspension of state notarizations statute will continue indefinitely through the end of the COVID-19 public health threat. 

Formal notice of the first extension was published by the Secretary of State on June 9, some time after the Governor's office alerted us that the first extension was approved and had taken effect. As the volume of work at the state offices handling Texas's response to COVID-19 remains high, it may be some time before the Secretary of State is able to publish notice of the most recent, indefinite extension of the use of RIN in Texas. We have received an email exchanged by the offices of the governor and the attorney general confirming the extension is indefinitely extended until the COVID-19 disaster declaration is lifted.

These are the conditions that apply whenever this suspension is invoked under the existing order.

Complimentary RIN Webinar
TLTA hosted a complimentary webinar on April 30 to walk attendees through the temporary RIN process and answer related questions. This complimentary webinar was presented by TLTA President-Elect John Bruce, Senior Vice President, Heritage Title Company, Austin. You can view a recording of the webinar here. If you'd prefer to view the on-demand webinar to obtain escrow CE credit, please register here

TLTA Is Grateful Gov. Abbott Adopted Our Proposed Solution
After receiving feedback from our members regarding limited implementation of remote online notarizations (RON) in the marketplace, TLTA's board proposed the temporary, crisis-driven RIN solution that Gov. Abbott adopted to support real estate closings under COVID-19 public health protocols. We are grateful for the governor's leadership on this special accommodation to support our state's real estate economy. TLTA also appreciates the support of our related industry partners in this effort.
 
TLTA's Proposed Emergency Executive Action Content
Letter TLTA Sent Gov. Abbott Along With Our Proposal 
Letter from Texas Association of Realtors Supporting Our Proposal 

Remote Ink-Signed Notarization –  GSEs
Fannie Mae Guidance
Freddie Mac Guidance (see Q6)    

Notarization Types and Terminology (ALTA)


Remote Online Notarization (RON) and Digital Closings

TLTA is working with lenders to encourage them to allow transactions to be completed. We will update you as we have more information. 

WARNING:  Do not use video platforms such as Skype, Zoom or FaceTime for remote online notarization. The Texas Statute provides specific requirements for a proper RON transaction. Additionally, the national GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have their own requirements and approved vendors and platforms. As always, check with your underwriter when considering a nontraditional approach to closing in response to the current challenges.

ALTA is working with other trade associations and industry partners to support an effort to pass the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (SECURE Notarization Act). This legislation takes a two-prong approach to continue and expand access to remote online notary (RON).  First, it permits immediate nationwide use of RON, with minimum standards. Second, it provides certainty for the interstate recognition of RON. The SECURE Notarization Act builds on ongoing efforts of lawmakers to promote remote transaction options for consumers. More information about the SECURE Notarization Act will be available at alta.org/RON.

RON Resources

RON Education

  • Return of the RON (Recorded April 16, 2020) - This intermediate course is an in-depth discussion of Remote Online Notary situations and E-Closing scenarios. This course takes a deep dive into the requirements of the Remote Online Notary session, practice, and pitfalls of this new technology.
  • Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Ron? (Recorded March 12, 2020) - This intermediate webinar focuses on the use of Remote Online Notary (RON) and other E-Closing scenarios.

Watch for Fraud - Cyber security researchers have identified a growing number of phishing scams in which fraudsters are using the coronavirus to entice victims. With more employees working remotely, make sure your company is following best practices to protect its data and money.


Mobile Notary Services
 - There are a number of companies that provide mobile notary services, five of which are TLTA associate members (search the TLTA Directory). We would also encourage you to check with your underwriters for those active in your area. Google searches can also be refined to pull those serving specific ZIP codes.

Business Continuity Strategies

TLTA has compiled a list of operational best practices, safe closing protocols and other tips and hints. Below is that page along with other resources you may find helpful.


County Clerk and County Office Operations

TLTA is tracking this issue. Thus far, we have heard of very limited closures, but we are already seeing operational changes (e.g. reduced staff, scheduled filings and staggered shifts).

ALTA is tracking closures of county recording offices nationwide. The document also tracks projected reopen date, if online access is available and if the county accepts e-recording.

Ohio Amendment - amendment requiring county offices critical to conducting title searches and recording documents stay open while stay-at-home order is in effect.

Recorders. Your Job Is Essential  (PRIA)


Stay-at-Home Orders: Status of Title Insurance as an Essential Business Entity

On Tuesday, March 31, Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA-14 relating to statewide continuity of essential services and activities. "Essential services" under the order consist of everything listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. In addition the order states, "This executive order shall supersede any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster, but only to the extent that such a local order restricts essential services allowed by this executive order or allows gatherings prohibited by this executive order."

Some municipalities have specifically listed title insurance as a financial service or otherwise as an essential business entity. For those that have not, please refer to federal CISA guidelines and definitions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (see Financial Services on page 13) and a memorandum for the financial services sector from the U.S. Department of the Treasury that also includes insurance and settlement. 

Updated federal CISA guidelines and definitions now include county recorders on the list of essential services, stating "Staff at government offices who perform title search, notary, and recording services in support of mortgage and real estate services and transactions." See Other Community- or Government-Based Operations and Essential Functions on page 12.

We also have added other resources you may find helpful, including an Essential Employee Letter Template.

What about TLTA meetings and events?

Due to government restrictions, some of our meetings and events have been affected and will continue to be affected. We will update the status of our upcoming meetings and events here:

LIVE PROGRAMS


CERTIFICATION TESTS
As things change, we’ll let you know through TLTA emails as well as updating them here. If you have any questions regarding TLTA Education or events, please contact Lynne Daves – 512.771.6678

Federal Response

Remote Online Notarization
ALTA is working with other trade associations and industry partners to support an effort to pass the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (SECURE Notarization Act). This legislation takes a two-prong approach to continue and expand access to remote online notary (RON).  First, it permits immediate nationwide use of RON, with minimum standards. Second, it provides certainty for the interstate recognition of RON. The SECURE Notarization Act builds on ongoing efforts of lawmakers to promote remote transaction options for consumers. More information about the SECURE Notarization Act will be available at alta.org/RON

Financial Help for Small Businesses
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides several loan for small businesses to utilize when operating their business. Click here to check out the various loan options.

Federal Legislation


Finance Commission Guidance

The Texas Joint Financial Regulatory Agencies—which include the Department of Banking, Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending, Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner and the Texas Credit Union Department—have published guidance on emergency measures for home equity lending during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

PLEASE NOTE: This is simply guidance from a regulatory agency and is not necessarily binding on the state Constitution. Future courts may disagree or interpret the law differently. Consult your underwriter regarding any novel approach to closing such a loan.


TREC and TAR Guidance

TLTA has received guidance from both TREC and TAR. We are providing that guidance for your information.


Updates and Other Communications from TLTA

(most recent messages are at the top of the queue)

Need to reach the TLTA staff during this hectic time?

TLTA has reconfigured our work environment to ensure the health and safety of our team. Most of our staff of professionals are working remotely for the time being, but it is business as usual and we remain 100% available to you as always. You can reach us by email at tlta@tlta.com, via the main office number (512.472.6593), or by emailing or calling staff members directly. Here is an updated list of TLTA contact information .