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Notary Law Update: Amended Administrative Rules

Description:

This New Law Alert reports three new administrative rules that became effective this fall: an increase in the commissioning fees from $50 to $75, an increase in fees charged by the Office of Commissions and Authentications for certifications and Apostilles from $10 to $15 per document, and changes in rules pertaining to the official embosser used by Notaries to authenticate a notarial act.

State: District of Columbia

Effective: December 12, 2010

Signed:

Chapter: Rules 17-2403, 17-2407 and 17-2409

Affects: Amends Sections 2403, 2407 and 2409 of Title 17, Chapter 24 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR)

Changes:

1. Raises the commissioning fee for a D.C. Notary commission from $50 to $75.

2. Raises the fees for certifications and authentications of the official acts of D.C. Notaries from $10 to $15.

3. Requires each Notary to keep an official seal that is the exclusive property of the Notary and that is kept secure and accessible to the Notary when not in use.

4. Prohibits the official seal from being possessed or used by another person or used for any purpose other than performing lawful notarizations.

5. Prescribes the following elements to be contained in the Notary's official embosser: (a) The Notary's name at the top, exactly as on the commission; (b) The words "Notary Public" in the center; (c) The words "District of Columbia" at the bottom; (d) (NEW) the Notary's commission expiration date in the center; and (e) A circular border no larger than 1.75 inches surrounding the required words in the seal.

6. Stipulates that a Notary shall affix his or her official signature and seal on every document notarized, at the time the document is notarized.

7. Requires an "embossment inker" (inking stamp device) to render the official seal embossment legible, photographically reproducible and permanent.

8. Permits an embossed seal without the accompanying ink applied from the embossment inker if the document is made of a non-porous material to which standard ink will not adhere. The embossed seal impression may be inked with a permanent ink capable of drying through evaporation.

9. Allows Notaries commissioned prior to December 1, 2010 (extended now to December 15, 2010) to use an official seal that does not comply with new rule 2403.4 (i.e., omits an expiration date) provided the seal is made visible with an embossment inker and coupled with a separate expiration date stamp.

10. Requires Notaries commissioned prior to December 1, 2010 (extended now to December 15, 2010) to obtain an official seal that complies with new rule 2403.4 upon being recommissioned to a new term.

Analysis:

Pursuant to a 2009 law enacted by the District Council to give the Secretary of the District new power to set administrative rules for Notaries, three new administrative rules have been adopted by the Secretary of the District of Columbia and incorporated into the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations. Effective September 24, 2010, the commission fee for a Notary commission is now $75 for a four-year term. In addition, also effective September 24, 2010, the fee for issuing certifications and authentications, including Apostilles, has increased to $15 per document. However, the most significant changes affect the official embosser seal. The District is one of a couple of remaining jurisdictions still requiring an embosser seal. The new change to make the embossment photographically reproducible by utilizing a required embossment inker is a first-of-itskind regulation, although there are jurisdictions that require an embosser seal, if used, to be photographically reproducible. (A California Notary can use an embosser as the official seal provided it is photographically reproducible, but the statute doesn't specify how a Notary must do so.) District Notaries now will find that affixing a seal will require a two-step process: first, making the embossment; and second, making the embossment photographically reproducible with the inker. The NNA believes that allowing a Notary to use a rubber-stamp seal in place of the embosser would have been a better solution for both Notaries and agencies like public recorders who rely on a legible, seal image for the public record. Besides the new embossment ink requirement, the District is to be commended for incorporating new rules clarifying that the seal is the Notary's exclusive property, that the official seal is to be secured when not in use, that the seal may not be used by any person other than the Notary and that seal impressions must be made only at the time a document is notarized. Also for the first time, the actual elements of the official embosser seal are plainly set forth in an administrative rule. Like California, the District has a procedure Notaries can follow when notarizing subdivision plat maps and other documents made of mylar or a material that will not accept the ink from the embossment inker. Notaries with commissions in force prior to the effective date of the rule may continue to use their existing embosser seals with an embosser inker, and must obtain a new embosser that conforms to the new seal rules upon being issued a new commission.

*PDF version is available only to NNA Members.

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