First National Title Insurance Company is dedicated to assisting our agents continue business operations during these unprecedented times. Below is our most up-to-date FNTI related news and information related to the Corona Virus (Covid-19 Pandemic).
We’re all in this together so if you have any information you think is important to share, let us know! Let’s collaborate and help each other! As always should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact a FNTI team member.
Bulletin 2020-02 – Procedures for Courthouse and Lender Closings during COVID-19 Epidemic
Small Business Assistance - Paycheck Protection Program
Courtesy of Guy. R Jackson, Chambers County Abstract
Friday April 3rd, starts the application period for the SBA PPP Forgivable Loans intended to help small businesses (under 500 employees) keep their employees on the payroll. This appears to be the simplest SBA loan paperwork that we have ever seen as it does not require SBA underwriting approval. It is estimated that some applicants could receive funds the same day they apply.
US Treasury SBA PPP FAQs and Loan Application – https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/top-priorities/cares-act/assistance-for-small-businesses
Q&A and FAQ's
Q: Will FNTI allow the use of Remote Online Notaries?
A: Yes, provided that:
1) the county clerk where the property is located will accept documents for erecording;
2) you use a statutorily compliant third party platform such as NOTARIZE©; and
3) you obtain consent by affidavit from all parties to the transaction for the use of
RON, and consent to pass along charges on the CD if the agent is not covering the cost.
Q: Is the use of SKYPE or FACETIME the same as RON?
A: No. RON is governed by statute. The use of SKYPE, FACETIME or any other live social media or video platform other than that which is allowed under the RON statute arguably results in a defective notary acknowledgment, which in turn is fatal to the constructive notice of a recorded document. It is also an improper notarization and could jeopardize the notary license.
Q: Can a traditional notary conduct an electronic or online notarization?
A: No, a different type of notary license is needed in addition the use of accredited software that processes a credential analysis and conducts an identity proofing process.
Q: Can we use RON procedures if the property is located in a state where RON has not gone into effect?
A: No. Use of RON in states where RON is not currently in effect results in a defective notary acknowledgment which in turn is fatal to the constructive notice of a recorded document. We are aware that other underwriters are allowing the use of RON in “non-RON” states. We will notify you if FNTI’s position changes.
Q: Are there any special exceptions that need to be added to the commitment/policy when using RON?
Q: Are there types of transactions where RON may not be used?
A: Yes, In TEXAS, RON may not be used for Home Equity Loans, Power of Attorneys for home equity loans, and Reverse Mortgages, where the document are required to be executed at the office of the title company.
A. Yes, in FLORIDA, RON may not be used for a will nor a trust.
A. In New Mexico, Arizona, and Arkansas, RON may not be used at this time.
Q: Are there any special notice that need to be added to the commitment with respect to closing during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
A: Yes. The following notice should be added to Schedule C for Texas and Schedule B-I in ALTA States:
“The Company reserves the right to make exceptions and requirements prior to and following closing for issuance of a title policy(ies) based upon the specifics of the transaction, the review of the closing documents, and changes in recording and title searching capabilities resulting from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and business and government office closures.”
Q: What will we do if county clerks start closing their offices and discontinue recordings?
A: If you receive notice that your county clerk is closing and not accepting any recordings, FNTI has agreed to continue to insure your closing under the conditions outlined in our bulletin:
1) All parties, including the lender, must execute an “Escrow Closing Affidavit”;
2) the lender must agree in its affidavit that its Loan Policy will not be issued until such time as you can: (a) obtain all necessary payoffs; and (b) the clerk resumes accepting recordings and you have recorded the necessary instruments;
3) the Seller and Borrower must execute a “Nothing Further Affidavit and Indemnity”;
4) the transaction is not a construction loan or interim to perm loan; and
5) the policy amount does not exceed $1 million dollars.
(See Bulletin 2020-02 for details and forms which can be found on the FNTI website):
Q: How will delayed recordings or the inability to record at all affect our title work/down dates?
A: So long as your plant can obtain title evidence that is no more than 30 days prior to the closing date, FNTI will insure your transaction.
Q: Lenders are asking me if we are providing “gap coverage”. Are we?
A: Effectively, yes. However, the phrase “gap coverage” in this environment may have different meanings to different lenders. We have agreed, per above, that FNTI will insure a transition that closes in escrow, holding the recordable documents until such time as recordation is available, issuing the policy at the time of recordation. Under this scenario, FNTI is covering the “gap” between the Effective Date” on the last commitment provided to the lender and the Policy Date which should be the date on which the deed of trust is eventually recorded, provided that gap period does not exceed 30 days. To this end, it is imperative that while recordings capabilities are still available, you continue to update your commitment.
Q: What happens if we can’t obtain payoffs for mortgages, liens, judgments, etc.?
A: FNTI has agreed to allow you to escrow for these matters provided you withhold two times the face amount of the debt and obtain an escrow agreement signed by all parties evidencing their agreement to escrow and insure around the matter. If the face amount of the debt is $5,000 or less, an escrow of three times the face amount is required. It is the responsibility of the Agent to monitor these escrows, follow up on obtaining payoffs and remitting payment.
Q: What counties have been given notice of abbreviated recording procedure or hours?
A: Presently, we know that Dallas County (Texas) will process e-recordings only between 8:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday. Ector County (Texas) will only accept recordings via electronic submission and mail—no over the counter documents are being allowed. Many county courthouses in Texas are already closed to the public but documents placed in designated drop boxes that have been established at the courthouse doors or sent by US mail/FedEx/UPS are still being accepted. We expect to hear from more counties as the list of counties implementing “Shelter at Home” orders grows.
In Florida, Miami-Dade is only accepting recordings through on-line recording methods. At this time, all other counties are operating as usual.
RIN (Remote Ink Notarization) Q&A
Q: Is FNTI willing to insure a real estate instrument based on a RIN notarization of a document with a jurat, such as an Affidavit (e.g. an affidavit of heirship)?
Q: In the notary block when a RIN is used – if the notary is in one county and the signatory is in a different county – which county is inserted into the notary block?
A: The County where the notary is located should be used.
Q: What date is to be used in the clause that has to be added to the acknowledgment when doing a RIN?
A: Please note that a revised bulletin was issued which utilizes the date of April 27, 2020. (“This notarization involved the use of two-way audio-video communication pursuant to the suspension granted by the Office of the Governor on April 27, 2020, under Section 418.016 of the Texas Government Code.”)
Q: When the notary block on document recites the wrong state or wrong county and escrow fails to catch the error prior to delivery to the customer – who corrects that?
A: The notary would correct it upon return of documents from the customer.
Q: What are some other helpful hints to ensure the process is handled correctly?
A: Obtaining a hard copy of ID ahead of time to compare to the ID held up by customer during RIN would help avoid any issues that could arise during the ID verification. The customer and notary should both verbally attest to being in Texas. The customer should verbally identify each document they are about to sign prior to signing. When using RIN for a jurat, the notary must administer the oath.
Q: A recording of the two-way audio-video communication of the notarial act is required to be kept by the notary public for two years from the date of the notarial act. Should the title agent maintain a copy?
A: Best practice would be for the notary and the title agent to maintain a copy of the recording.
County Recording Status
- Recording Jurisdiction Operating Status Report https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EocCpcef3EHkqVp4834xFPMH5IRtKEpA9oluzZCdOBA/htmlview#gid=432696538
- Simplifile – COVID-19 County Recording Status:
- American Land Title Association – Coronavirus:
“SECURE Notarization Act: 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. Get more information about the Act at alta.org/RON.” (Source: American Land Title Association).
- Watch for Fraud:
“Cybersecurity 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.” (Source: American Land Title Association).
State of Arizona – Executive Order 2020-26 (Remote Online Notarization)
Arizona Department of Health Services
- Highlighted Infections Diseases for Arizona:
Arizona Association of Counties
- Arizona County Government Directory:
Florida Land Title Association
- General Link:
- Letter to CFO Patronis and Insurance Commissioner Calling for Data Call Delay as of 3/25/2020:
- Joint Letter to the Governor Amid COVID-19 Essential Businesses as of 3/24/2020:
Florida Department of Health
Florida Department of Insurance Regulation
State of New Mexico – Executive Order 2020-015 (Remote Online Notarization)
New Mexico Department of Health
- Public Health Order (March 23, 2020):
New Mexico Secretary of State
- County Clerk Information:
TLTA – Covid-19 Resources
- General Link: https://www.tlta.com/TLTA/Resources/Coronavirus_Resources/TLTA/Resources/Coronavirus.aspx?hkey=5dac65fe-8ca0-4051-9b29-ec5aa2e4812f
- County/District Clerk and County Office Operations: https://www.tlta.com/documents/COVID_Counties.pdf
- *Orange County: County Clerk’s office is closed to the public and may require a telephone call ahead with the recordings and may require Agent to meet at the clerk’s door to provide and receive recordings. The District Clerk’s office is also closed to the public and may require a telephone call to obtain information.
- Stay-at-Home Orders: Status of Title Insurance as an Essential Business Entity: https://www.tlta.com/TLTA/Resources/Coronvavirus/Covid__Stay-at-Home_Orders.aspx
Texas Department of State Health Services
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/
Texas Department of Public Safety
- Texas Driver’s License (DL) Expiration Dates Extended, DL Offices Closed in Light of COVID-19 Outbreak: https://www.dps.texas.gov/director_staff/media_and_communications/pr/2020/0319a
- * Effective Thursday, March 19, 2020, Driver License offices across the State have been closed until further notice. Therefore, the expiration dates for Texas Identifications Cards (ID), Driver Licenses (DL), Commercial DLs (CDL) and Election Identification Certificates (EIC) have all been extended to 60 days after which time the DPS issues public notice that the extension period for this disaster declaration has been lifted.
4/29/2020: Gov. Abbott Approves Emergency Use of Remote Ink-Signed Notarizations (RIN)
4/2/2020: Emergency Guidance on Home Equity Lending (Signing locations and more addressed in guidance published by Texas Joint Financial Regulatory Agencies)
4/2/2020: Lenders to Begin Processing CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program Loans Tonight at 12:01 a.m. Friday, April 3
3/27/2020: TDI Issues Guidance on Electronic Signatures (New guidance for title industry on electronic signatures for escrow checks, directly issued policies that require countersignatures)
3/26/2020: TDI Temporarily Eases Requirements to Help Title Agents Cope with COVID (Escrow, Licensing, CE and Filings Included)