TLTA is closely following the growing 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?
We have already identified several potential issues and are engaged in conversations with other stakeholders to try to minimize business interruption for you. For instance, will you continue to have access to public records, will RON evolve as a tool during this crisis, what compliance challenges will you face in a remote business environment, and will title insurance be considered an essential business?
We are eager to hear what other challenges you are facing and also hear 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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."
TLTA has compiled a list of city/county stay at home orders. When they are available, we have included links to those orders. We also have added other resources you may find helpful, including an Essential Employee Letter Template.
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.
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)
Since the COVID-19 Crisis began, and based on the input we received from you about challenges you are facing, 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 email@example.com.
Remote Online Notarization 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.
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. See ALTA's article, GSEs Issue New Guidance on RON, Powers of Attorney
. 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 (April 16, 1:30-2:30 p.m.) - 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.