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 come out frequently. We know it’s a lot to keep up with and we are committed to keeping you informed. Please check this webpage regularly for the latest 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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remote Ink-Signed Notarization (RIN)
Governor's Emergency RIN Authorization No Longer Applicable as of Sept. 1, 2021
The temporary suspension of regulations that allowed for the use of Remote Ink-Signed Notarization (RIN) in Texas has been terminated.
Effective 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2021, the use of RIN is no longer permitted in Texas.
Following TLTA's initial request
in April 2020, Gov. Abbott temporarily suspended traditional notary regulations to allow for temporary use of RIN under COVID-19 public health protocols. Under the emergency RIN authorization, a "wet signature" was still used, but the signature was witnessed by a notary via video and audio channels, and the notary seal was affixed at a later time.
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.
Giving Texas consumers the opportunity to choose RIN further enhanced our industry's ability to serve the public with efficiency and safety during the early days of the pandemic. While the temporary use of RIN was in effect, title professionals worked within the suspension's guidelines with success and confidence in its security, helping ensure the integrity of real estate transactions statewide.
Gov. Abbott Temporary Order Allowing Use of RIN
(April 29, 2020)
Office of the Attorney General RIN Guidance
TLTA RIN Use Continuation Request
(May 21, 2020)
TLTA RIN Use Continuation Request
(June 29, 2020)
Remote Online Notarization (RON) and Digital Closings
TLTA is working with lenders to encourage them to allow transactions to be completed. There are no lists of lenders that handle RON transactions. The best place to find lenders who are in the digital space, is to look at who is registered with MERS
. This does not mean they use RON for sure, but it means they do offer eNotes. We will update you as we have more information.
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
- 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 - Background Information
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 - Background Information
On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 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." This order was extended June 7, 2021.
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.