MAY/JUNE 2020 ISSUE
As we enter into our third month of the “new normal,” the use of technology to do our day-to-day jobs has become increasingly prevalent. One solution that is attracting a great deal of attention is Remote Online Notarization (RON). But, as we mentioned in our last newsletter, RON is a complex issue because usage varies by state, not every lender permits it and there’s a limited number of vendors offering the service. This month’s issue is dedicated to providing you with guidance and educational resources specific to RON.
By the end of May, most states had passed some type of Remote Online Notarization legislation, but as you can see from the map below, the type of legislation varies from state-to-state. ALTA has put together a comprehensive list of each state’s individual legislation regarding RON and how it directly impacts title companies.
THE “INS & OUTS” OF REMOTE ONLINE NOTARIZATIONS
With all the nuances related to RON and its part in digital closings, we thought we would go straight to the experts and get the answers from them. Ryan Wood, Regulatory Counsel, Compliance Solutions of our parent company, Covius, provided us with helpful answers to some of the most common questions we’re hearing regarding RON.
Q: What is RON and how does it differ from traditional notarizations?
Ryan: Traditional notarizations are performed in person, with the signer appearing physically before the notary – both in the same physical location. Remote Online Notarization, or RON, is a method that allows a signer to appear before a notary from a remote location using real-time audio & visual technology.
Q. How are RONs conducted?
Ryan: Basic RONs require the signer to meet and communicate with the notary using an online platform. As with a traditional notarization, the notary must verify the signer’s identity, either by viewing the signer’s ID electronically, asking the signer to answer questions based on information from the signer’s credit history or by other means specified in state statutes.
The signer and the notary then sign the document, and the notary’s seal is attached. This can be done with ink signatures and scanning of the document or with electronic signatures and an electronic notary seal.
In some cases, the signer can physically sign the document while the notary witnesses the signing remotely. The document is then sent to the notary who will then physically notarize it. This is referred to as Remote Ink-Signed Notarization (RIN).
The signing and notarization are typically recorded, and the recording is maintained by the notary for a specified period (usually several years).
Q: Does RON work differently from state to state?
Ryan: Although many states have similar requirements, each state has their own set of laws and guidelines that specifies how such notarizations must be conducted. Some of these states also have regulations that provide additional guidance for remote notaries. The level of detail in the requirements varies from state-to-state; some states give notaries wide latitude on how to conduct remote notarizations, while others have particular procedures that remote notaries must follow. Some states require separate licensure and/or training for remote notaries, while others allow any licensed notary within the state to conduct remote notarizations.
Q: What’s the difference between eSign & RON?
Ryan: eSign (electronic signatures) refers to how a document is executed, while RON refers to the whole process of remote notarization. Electronic signing is a tool that can be used in remote notarizations but is not always required (see above).
Electronic signatures are signatures performed on a computer or other electronic device, regardless of whether or not the document must be notarized. Electronic signatures are not only used for remote notarizations; signers can also execute documents electronically in the physical presence of a notary or closing agent.
Q: What documents can be signed through RON?
Ryan: This varies from state-to-state – some states allow RON for all documents that could otherwise be notarized in person; others limit the types of documents that can be executed using RON. Estate planning documents, such as wills, are often excluded from remote notarization. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic some states have temporarily allowed for remote notarization of wills (subject to certain rules).
Q: What’s a true eClosing vs. a hybrid eClosing?
Ryan: In a true eClosing, the signer signs all documents electronically, either in the physical presence of a notary or using remote online notarization. In a hybrid eClosing, the signer signs most of the documents electronically, but several documents are signed in person using ink and paper.
Q: Do you think RON will be as important after the COVID-19 pandemic?
Ryan: Consumers increasingly value mobility and expect flexibility from the financial services industry. The demand for RON will continue to increase after the COVID-19 pandemic as more consumers expect to see the same type of convenience with legal document execution that they are currently experiencing in other transactions (such as online shopping).
Title Underwriter, Statewide Settlement Services
Melissa Doggett is the Co-Founder and Title Underwriter of Statewide Settlement Services. Melissa has been a client of reQuire’s for more than nine years. Recently, we sat down with her to learn more about her, her company and their needs.
Q: Can you give me an overview of the company and your role?
Melissa: Statewide Settlement Services is a family-run title company that specializes in manufactured housing and is based in Brightwood, Virginia. When we first opened our doors in 2016, we were primarily doing remote closings, title searches and recording services. In 2018, we expanded our services and started offering title insurance and settlement services and that’s when we began using reQuire’s services.
Q: So, why reQuire?
Melissa: I’ve been in the industry almost 20 years, so when we expanded our services to include settlements, I knew we needed to sign up with reQuire right away. We primarily use reQuire for release tracking but have also used title curative services, as well when the situation calls for it. For instance, I’m currently working on a case for which I’m using title curative, because due to COVID-19, I can’t reach anyone in the attorney’s and county clerk’s office. The title curative tool is extremely handy for situations like that where we have no other options at the moment. In addition, reQuire’s level of customer service has gone above and beyond.
Running a small business, I understand and appreciate the value of good customer service. When COVID-19 hit, everyone in the industry was bombarded with generic emails from every service provider. However, I was extremely touched that I received a personal email from Randy Cruz. Randy reached out just to check-in and see how things were going and how/if our operations had been affected and if there was anything he could do to help. I was extremely impressed with the level of customer service and dedication Randy and the entire reQuire team showed.
Q: What success have you seen using reQuire’s services?
Melissa: In my former company, we used to have entire departments dedicated to following up with lien releases. From a cost-savings aspect, reQuire has had a tremendous impact. But on a broader level, reQuire has been able to assure us that our title requirements are actually being met.
Q: What would you say to prospects about the importance of release tracking?
Melissa: Partnering with reQuire is a no brainer. The program is easy to use, cost efficient and the benefits are endless. With reQuire you can close on a file, run the reQuire program and put the file away and know for sure you don’t have to follow up with it every 30 days. You literally don’t have a reason not to use it!
Q: How are you coping with the refi volume?
Melissa: Our business is unique because we specialize in manufactured housing. 100% of our settlements are remote closings and typically take place in the sales office of the complex or in the builder’s office. Both our services and construction were deemed essential businesses in Virginia, so we were fortunate that we didn’t have to pause our business. However, even though the volume of purchase business coming into our shop was typical for time of year, we noticed an almost complete stop in actual closings because our lender partners weren’t receiving funding from their investors to fund our clients’ loans. So the amount of refi business we’ve gotten over the past few months has been a lifesaver for us.
Q: Are you doing anything differently in your shop because of COVID-19?
Melissa: We’ve implemented all social distancing guidelines as per the CDC and state of Virginia. We’re fortunate in that because we already have the established relationships with the sales offices and builders’ offices, we can assure clients that closings are being done in controlled environments. All parties are six feet apart and wearing masks during the closing. Finally, we provide sanitized pens and hand sanitizer.
Q: Have closings changed due to social distancing restrictions? Are you taking advantage of new technology?
Melissa: We’re able to do a lot more now electronically than we have in the past with eSigning, remote online notarization and even full digital closings. All our lender partners have converted to offering eClosings and I am now an approved eNotary. When we do have to have in-person interaction, we’re sanitizing documents as much as possible and following all the necessary precautions.
To learn more about Statewide Settlement Services, contact Melissa directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.