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5 tips for dealing with angry borrowers during loan signings


Updated 4-10-17. Signing loan documents can be a tough experience for both borrowers and Notary Signing Agents. It's a complex process that must be completed meticulously in a very short time, and it's not unusual for NSAs to have to deal with signers who are very upset or stressed. If this happens, here are some suggestions from experts and veteran Notaries on how to calm things down. 

1. Keep calm and de-escalate the situation

The first rule in dealing with an emotional or unreasonable person is to maintain your composure, says Preston Ni, professor and author of How To Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People. “The less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation.”

“Take a deep breath,” advises Florida Notary Rebecca Louise Green, “and speak in a calm soft voice.”

2. Follow — and explain — the letter of the law

A lack of knowledge of the Notary’s role can lead to heated situations, especially when signers demand that you do something illegal. This happened to California Notary Verne Gordon. “I spoke to the signer and explained that I had to follow the laws of the state of California,” said Gordon, “and he finally understood.”

“Some signers get mad if I can't notarize their I-9, or if they have to fill in the blank spots on documents,” says California Notary Liz McNeil Tieck. “I always try to resolve their frustration by showing the signer my Notary handbook, an NNA article, or something that explains the exact reason I can't notarize the document as is. After they read it, they usually become more understanding and are sorry for their poor behavior.”

Explain to signers what you can and can’t do as a Notary, and let them know that bending the rules isn’t worth your facing penalties, fines, a revoked commission, or even jail time.

3. Empathize — but don’t add to the blame-game

“Sometimes the borrower is looking to vent and have someone validate their concerns,” says Alaska Notary Linda J. Russell. Try looking at the situation from your signer’s point of view: Did they receive inaccurate information? Are they nervous about a major financial or legal transaction? Are the documents being notarized of a sensitive or emotional nature?

“Remember they're not mad at you, they're angry at the situation,” says Loree Camden. “I tell them, ‘I can see why you might be upset. I'd be happy to sit here if you'd like to contact your agent/lender.’”

While you can empathize with the signer, avoid casting blame on others, particularly the agency that you are representing. “Be sympathetic,” Michigan Notary Johanna Bermann advises, “but do not bad-mouth the lender or title company.”

4. Offering Solutions: The “I’m on your side” approach

Rather than reacting defensively to your signer’s emotions, try to provide a solution.

“Sometimes I will ask, "What can I do to help?" says Bermann. “That seems to snap them back to reality and they realize their venting is misdirected.”

Often the most helpful thing you can do is offer them time to contact the lender or title company and solve the problem. Your patience and focus shows the signer you are willing to work together to find a solution.

5. Know when to walk away

While it should be only as a last resort, there are times when the best solution is to end the signing, leave the situation, and contact the agency — particularly if you feel you are in danger. No job is worth your personal safety.

“As professionals, we do not have to sit and take abuse from signers,” says New Jersey Notary Michael Harris. “Sometimes walking out is the only professional option.”

In the end, most Notaries agree that you can resolve most problems with patience and perseverance. “A signing agent is much more than ‘just a Notary,’” says Vicki Kluever, a retired mortgage lending manager and escrow manager with over 30 years in the industry. “We are often the final contact in a long process. If we behave unprofessionally it leaves a bad taste for the entire transaction.”

Related Articles:

Five types of signers Notary Signing Agents encounter

A Mobile Notary's Nightmare: A signer with a gun

9 important safety tips for Notaries and Signing Agents to follow

View All: Best Practices


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22 Sep 2014



22 Sep 2014

husband was not going to allow wife to sign documents. he felt he should be the only signer. explained wife's signature was needed as the proprty was in her also and for the purpose of this refi. her signature. he shouted out that no one tells him what to in his home then threw the pen at me and hit me with it. i sat ,did not say a word, he finaly said that he could get any one he wanted to do my job. i agreed and after bit he let her sign. after we finished i shook hands with him and said it had been a pleasure to work with him. talk about embarassed was he ever.

Thomas Gorman

22 Sep 2014

I had a VA loan, it was about 200 pages. The wife was not on the mortgage of refi. All through out the documents it asked for her to sign. She said she would not sign any of the paper work that had to do with the mortgage. The husband called the broker, the broker said that she did not have to sign. After the signing was over I called and told them of the problem and I faxed back certain paperwork that they wanted before I dropped the package. They told me to drop the package at FEDX. I did. The next day I got a call to make another appointment with them. I did, she signed all documents where it asked. It cost them two pay checks


22 Sep 2014

I was quite surprised that a notary thought it was a good example of remaining calm after her customer threw a pen at her in anger and hit her in the face! NOT acceptable in ANY situation! One might not go so far as to report the assault but I firmly believe she should have just left immediately. A hand shake? Really?


23 Sep 2014

REALLY!!!!? Arleta Grensky i find it so hard to believe you just sat there - you kept yourself in a bad situtation - very poor choice.......think of yourself first next time

Rick Easter

25 Sep 2014

So true! Last resort should be to walk away. A cool head and reassuring manner will diffuse many situations. After all, the conditions were not dictated by you. We are with them as a service, and the scope of our duties is limited. Care and compassion in a serious situation goes a long way to turning anger to understanding.

Jerry Lucas

31 Mar 2016

A notary is a public official. Look up your state laws for obstructing, impeding or assaulting a public official. Can you throw a pen at the governor, a judge, or a police officer? Try shouting at or insulting a judge in court and see what happens.


17 Apr 2017

I guess I am a lucky SA because in 14 years I have never had a situation where things got out of control. I have never felt, or been threatened by a borrower. A person has to be suited to this line of work. Patience, kindness, understanding ,respect, diplomacy, empathy, accuracy, accountabilility, promptness, curteousness, these things aren't easily learned because they are not being taught. That is why signing services and title co.'s will get what they are willing to pay for, as evidenced in this article. Veteran NSA's know how to present the documents and deliver the deal!

Jim Coviello

17 Apr 2017

A clear case of assault. I think I'd be out of that location as soon as I could get the documents collected, before any more damage was caused or tempers were raised on both sides. A call to the closing company would be next, once I'm outside. If that didn't work, a call to the police might be appropriate. Keep yourself out of harm's way.

Eric Griffin

18 May 2021

Just had one today. The guy is a Slum Lord in my area. A notorious Slum Lord in fact. Who was trying to do an Asset Recovery on a dump in Florida for which he foreclosed due to unpaid taxes. The company that hired me was only going to pay $75.00 for multiple documents and two witnesses. They tried to say I could be witness and Notary! What?! I don't know about other states, but this is super illegal in NY. I called the signer, and after 3 hours of no contact, I called again. He screamed at me to take him off the list and hung up on me. He then called back 10 minutes later and tried to Hellen Keller me by saying he didn't know what he was talking about. I cancelled the appointment and looked up reviews for the company that hired me. They are all 1 Star reviews about how the company is a scam, they don't pay their notaries, and have dirt poor customer service. I dodged a bullet on that one.

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