We are here for you and your team.
We know the past two weeks have been filled with uncertainty, not just for your business but in your personal lives as well, because of COVID-19.
The Southeast Land Title Association and its board are here to provide you with the support and information you need, especially in times like these. We are united for the future of our industry in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Unity is all about helping each other out when the need arises. ALTA has done a wonderful job sending up-to-date information via email and maintaining a dedicated webpage on the virus. (The National Association of Realtors is updating a similar page, if you’d like to pass it along to any of your real estate agents.)
Here are some snippets from the latest updates:
Federal lawmakers are considering legislation that would immediately allow all notaries in the U.S. to conduct Remote Online Notarizations. The proposal was first introduced in the Senate and has House support too. This is an important issue for our members since Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi have not enacted RON legislation. A few states without RON legislation have recently issued emergency executive orders to allow Remote Online Notarizations. The Georgia Supreme Court entered an order on March 27, 2020, temporarily suspending the State Bar rules regarding a Georgia attorney supervising and participating in a closing without being physically present at the closing and in close proximity to the parties to the transaction. The Order allows a Georgia attorney to “participate in and supervise the closing of a real estate transaction by way of video conference,” as that term is defined further in the Order. An executive order regarding remote notarization is currently being considered by the Georgia Governor. The Alabama Governor has issued an emergency proclamation relative to notaries and witnesses. The entire Fourth Supplemental Proclamation can be viewed by clicking here.
In states where stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders have been issued, title companies have been considered an “Essential Service” and remain operational in some fashion. Earlier this week, ALTA CEO Diane Tomb said that categorizing title companies as such is supported by the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department. During these times it is important for you to review information from ALTA and other resources to stay abreast of these changes as they occur.
We know lots of you have talked about the customer and employee safety measures you’ve taken because of COVID-19. However, if such a declaration happens in your state, be ready to communicate with your customers that you are still open and ready to close their transactions. There is always confusion about what is open when one of these orders is issued, and people may not think of you as “essential” until you tell them.
Your SLTA leadership, with support from ALTA, has been and is ready to advocate for you if local officials are considering shutting down your local recording office in the name of health and safety. Not all counties have e-recording options, but the industry has been successful in working with local officials across the country to develop alternate plans so recording can still take place.
There have also been warnings from the FBI and the FTC about scammers using COVID-19 as the basis for phishing scams. Given how vigilant our industry needs to be when it comes to wire fraud, we should be warning our employees and customers about these new tactics.
If any of us at SLTA can be of assistance to you during this time, please reach out to us. Stay well and remember we are here for you.