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NSA Tips: Dealing with challenging signers

Two people discuss a document at a table, with one person explaining while the other listens.

Updated 5-1-23. Whether it's an upset borrower, unruly pets or other issues, Notary Signing Agents often encounter challenging situations during assignments. Matthew Valera, owner of Bay Area Notary, offered some practical pointers on how to deal with several common challenges.

1. The over-anxious loan document signer

Borrowers have plenty to be nervous about — they are about to make a life-changing purchase, or they’re overwhelmed by the process. You can ease their anxiety using several practical techniques:

  • Manage borrower expectations. Let the borrowers know exactly what to expect. Walk them through the process start-to-finish using an authoritative and confident tone.
  • Take control. Maintaining control is paramount. You can do this by steering borrowers to where the signing will take place, providing them with pens, and handing over documents one by one, as necessary, while showing them precisely where to sign.

2. The “I trust no-one” loan document signer

To most signers, you’re a complete stranger — and many people are naturally wary of strangers, especially when they are facilitating the signing of critical documents. Whether you encounter a signer who insists on reading every line of every lengthy document, or one who shows downright hostility, these techniques can help diffuse the situation:

  • Be polite and respectful. Don’t take a lack of trust personally. Regardless of the attitude or scenario thrown your way, Valera recommends always showing “positivity, directness and politeness. Above all, remain professional.”
  • Earn their confidence. Professionalism and knowledge can win over even the most skeptical signers. Keep in mind: in the end, your job is to ensure the notarization is done accurately, not to win over their lifelong trust.

3. The unsuitable loan signing location

You show up only to find that the location is unsuitable for signing. There could be unfriendly animals, a lack of viable signing surface, or you feel uncomfortable entering the signer’s house.

  • Be adaptable. Come up with a different plan, and suggest it in a calm and convincing manner, or ask the signer if he or she has an alternative location, such as a patio, a nearby library or café.
  • Carry a clipboard. Having a portable signing surface can make any location a viable signing spot — even the hood of your car.

4. The signer who won’t stop talking

They probably mean well, but the overly chatty types can drain your time, not to mention cause potential mistakes due to distractions. Use the following techniques:

  • Don’t respond. Be polite, but avoid engaging in the off-topic dialogue. Refocus the attention of your signer to the task at hand.
  • Keep the signing moving. If the signer remains bent on talking, keep the signing moving by continuing to the next document and indicating where he or she should sign. Proceed until complete.

5. The signer who refuses to sign:

You’re there to get a signature, but he or she won’t sign. What now?

  • Identify the problem. What is keeping the signer from signing? Is it a fixable issue related to the documents, such as misspelled names on a title or incorrectly preprinted dates? Or is it a larger issue dealing with the paperwork or signing circumstance?
  • Determine whether or not issue is solvable. Answer any questions that the law permits you to answer. If applicable, explain the rescission period to wary borrowers. It’s always helpful to have contact information for the applicable service, escrow or loan officer who may be able to offer answers, should the problem be out of your scope to resolve. You can also ask the borrower for their liaison or contact, or have them reach out for the appropriate answers.

Related Articles:

5 tips for dealing with angry borrowers during loan signings

Additional Resources:

Notary Signing Agent Tip: How to prepare for your first loan signing


Add your comment

Robert Wagner

31 Jul 2017

Some good ideas. I have run across some of these situations and explanations in the beginning solve some concerns. The clip board idea is one I hadn't thought about.


31 Jul 2017

I always carry a clipboard bc many tables have a textured surface that will smudge my stamp and I won't know this until I get to a signing location. Regarding vicious dogs or dangerous situations--I will refuse to complete the signing there. I have only had one experience with this, and the money isn't worth my safety. Since the TRID I have not had any refusals to sign after I got to the signing. I ask for extra phone numbers and emails, had one signing cancelled by email, signer's spouse was in the ER and they emailed me, and good communication prevents most last minute cancellations. Just witnessed a short Loan Modification last week in the driveway on my car's hood, and it wasn't the first time.


13 Aug 2018

With the hostile signers, I give them one chance. I say, if you cannot treat me with the same respect you'd want anyone to treat you with, I'm leaving. I've never had to actually get up and leave.

Candice Angotti

22 Mar 2021

Good points. When I call to introduce myself, I set the scene. During Covid we need a large table or island to spread out. Please keep your dogs in another area and no mask, no signing. I bring empty Fedex envelopes (NOT the padded ones) that work perfect as a writing surface. I always give them a brand new pen to keep, and have hand sanitizer available. I have small signs with their name and how to write the date. If they seem to have an attitude I just do as you suggested above and it works! I can't wait to try the part about not responding to the idle chit chat! Thanks for that one!

Ellen Smith

23 Mar 2021

I have had all of these. I am in a rural area between retirement locations. One elderly man was a storyteller. I finally had to interrupt and tell him my time was limited and the document was important. Another time I stepped into a domestic dispute over the document. I gathered the document and left. I carry a small table and a card table and chairs. I have an art clip board and 2 legal length clipboards. I also have 3 pocket folders for rough surfaces. I carry blue pens to leave “as a souvenir”. I find I have to read the room and use all the great suggestion presented here.

Luz Rose

09 Mar 2022

The new situation with the Health Screening Questionnaire. Some people get angry with the form. I asked them to write refused to sign. But they don’t like that. Please advise.

National Notary Association

11 Mar 2022

Hello. While we initially created an example form, companies are using their own individual guidelines and documentation, so the form is no longer available on our website. You should contact any companies you accept assignments from for recommendations and any forms they wish you to use.

Melanie Garcia

22 May 2023

Candice Angotti wrote, "I have small signs with their name and how to write the date." Should a notary provide signage (instruction) on how the signer(s) should write their name and date? This just doesn't sound like something a notary should do. What is the NNA's take on this comment?

National Notary Association

22 Jun 2023

A Notary Public may not instruct a signer on how sign their name on a document. If the signer of the document is unsure how to sign, they should contact the recipient of the document to see if they have a preference.

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