As the mortgage industry continues to misunderstand the proper role of Notaries, both Notaries and their employers should proactively work to avoid claims of legal violations, urged a senior executive with a major title company. Because of the many facets that accompany mortgage and real estate documents, legal complications surrounding Notary missteps can be severe, said Myron Finley, Chief Legal Officer for Nationwide Title Clearing, Inc. (NTC). Common Notary missteps include lack of personal appearance, failure to properly identify the signer, and executing the wrong notarial act. “I frequently hear assertions regarding a Notary’s professional responsibilities that simply do not reflect my understanding of industry best practices,” said Finley. “Many in this industry are doing their best to establish and maintain best practices, but it sometimes feels like Notary practices are in danger of being overlooked.” Specifically, Finley urged Notaries and the companies that hire them to consult The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility for guidance, and emphasized the value of proper Notary training and the need for ongoing compliance. “The Code assists Notaries in understanding and appreciating the fact that they are public officers who perform a vital service,” said Finley. “And like any other expert, they must stick to explicit principles in doing that job.” Finley said the Code provides Notaries with 10 “vital rules,” which also should be the “backbone of an employer’s policies concerning the hiring, training, and supervision of Notary employees. “The Code can guide Notaries on the purpose and function of their commissions, particularly when statutes, regulations and official directives fall short of providing the kind of certainty it takes to handle many of the issues a Notary encounters,” said Finley. Headquartered in Florida, the NTC is a privately owned service provider, serving mortgage lenders, servicers and investors, including eight of the top 10 residential mortgage servicers in the nation. As such, the company sees how Notaries throughout the industry perform their duties. Finley outlined two “simple standards” designed to ensure that Notaries are in compliance with Notary laws: Proper training. Notaries must be properly trained to deal with the many questions that arise while carrying out their duties. This training should include appropriately applying the rules they have learned to a number of common and practical circumstances, such as knowing and understanding the exact difference between a jurat requiring an oath versus an acknowledgment. Enforce compliance. Notaries and their employers should stay vigilant in following the constantly evolving rules and procedures. That will ensure proper oversight and help resolve issues that arise. It also means either retraining or disciplining individuals who make mistakes to ensure that the same issues don’t reoccur. Finley noted that the issue isn’t just a Notary issue. While Notaries should become experts, employers should “insist that all staff who deal with them treat them as experts.” Finley hopes to dispel some of the common misconceptions about the notarial role within the mortgage industry, while also raising awareness concerning the proper training and management of Notaries. As part of that effort, NTC has released an “Ask The Experts” video series that details how organizations can avoid allegations of Notary law violations. Kelle Clarke is a Contributing Editor with the National Notary Association.