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Certified Signing Specialist Code of Conduct: Guiding Principle 7


Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in an ongoing series of commentaries analyzing the individual Guiding Principles of the Certified Signing Specialist™ Code of Conduct, released by the Signing Professionals Workgroup in October 2013.

Guiding Principle 7 of the Certified Signing Specialist Code of Conduct reads: “The Certified Signing Specialist will follow all contractual obligations in charging and collecting fees for services rendered.”

Previously, we suggested that Guiding Principle 6 (Privacy and Confidentiality) may very well be the most relevant of all guiding principles in the Code. If asked, Certified Signing Specialists may have a different opinion about this. They may point to the issue of fees, the topic of Guiding Principle 7.

Dealing With The Issue Of Fees

A discussion of Guiding Principle 7 must start by stating that the Code does not discuss the amount of the fee Certified Signing Specialists should charge or receive, since that is strictly a matter between the Specialist and contracting company. Standard 7.4 points out that Signing Specialists operate in a competitive market and must not engage in anti-competitive conduct with other Specialists (who are by definition competitors) by discussing fees or the costs of doing business amongst themselves, or by working together to influence set fees Signing Specialists are paid. Nor may Specialists violate federal RESPA laws and regulations by accepting, charging or paying an illegal fee or inducement to obtain business (Standard 7.3).

SEE ALSO: The Truth About Notary Signing Agent Fee Discussions

Once a Certified Signing Specialist has negotiated a fee and entered into a contract to provide signing services, Guiding Principle 7 pursues the singular purpose of discussing the appropriate ways Specialists can honor their contractual obligations.

Put It In Writing

Since the best contracts are in writing, Standard 7.1 calls on the Certified Signing Specialist to confirm the fee with a contracting company in writing. Then, the Specialist must perform services for the agreed-upon fee.

One legitimate exception could alter this. If the requirements for an assignment materially change after the Specialist has accepted the assignment, Standard 7.2 allows the Specialist to renegotiate the fee. For example, the Specialist could renegotiate if, unbeknownst to him or her, the location of the assignment requires the Specialist to pay unusually high downtown parking charges.

Once signing services have been rendered, the Code calls for the Specialist to submit an invoice for payment (Standard 7.5). The Code intentionally leaves the particular method of invoicing to the Specialist and the contracting company. However, Standard 7.6 emphasizes that the invoice will be for the exact fee agreed upon prior to the assignment.

Late Payments

Collections are a necessary part of doing business, and on occasion Certified Signing Specialists will not be exempt from pursuing companies for the fees they are owed.

Most contracts will specify when a payment will be made (once a month, twice a month, etc.). Specialists are expected to know and follow the contract payment terms to avoid pursuing collections on an account that is not technically late (Standard 7.7). Keeping a separate and detailed record of all fees received for each assignment (Standard 7.9) will ensure that Specialists keep from doing so. This is not only unprofessional; it also causes a needless waste of time and resources for all involved.

When a payment is late, the Code reminds Certified Signing Specialists that their proper recourse is with the contracting company. In the typical signing services arrangement, the contract is between the Specialist and contracting company, not the borrower. Attempting to collect an owed fee from a borrower is highly improper, unless in a rare instance the Specialist’s contract is with the borrower (Standard 7.8).

Bill Anderson is Vice President of Legislative Affairs with the National Notary Association

For a better understanding of the new signing specialist code, read other commentaries in this series of articles.

Certified Signing Specialist Code Of Conduct: Guiding Principle 1

Certified Signing Specialist Code Of Conduct: Guiding Principle 2

Certified Signing Specialist Code Of Conduct: Guiding Principle 3

Certified Signing Specialist Code Of Conduct: Guiding Principle 4

Certified Signing Specialist Code of Conduct: Guiding Principle 5

Certified Signing Specialist Code of Conduct: Guiding Principle 6


Add your comment

David Krause

28 Oct 2014

Bill, I have a question more than a comment. You point out that RESPA laws and regulations preclude " accepting, charging or paying an illegal fee or inducement to obtain business...". Although this point matters little to signing agents, I'm curious. Does this also preclude Title Companies from the same behavior? In other words, if Really Big Title Company normally charges $1,300 for providing services, and Really Big Lender starts moving a lot of re-fi's through RBTC for $900, that appears as though some degree of inducement has been transacted between RBTC and RBL. Is that illegal? If not, what exactly constitutes " an illegal fee or inducement to obtain business..."?

Bill Anderson

28 Oct 2014

David, RESPA requires that borrowers receive disclosures at various times (GFE Affiliated Business Disclosure, etc). Some disclosures spell out the costs associated with the settlement, outline lender servicing and escrow account practices and describe business relationships between settlement service providers. 2. RESPA also prohibits certain practices that increase the cost of settlement services. Section 8 prohibits a person from giving or accepting anything of value for referrals of settlement service business related to a federally related mortgage loan. It also prohibits a person from giving or accepting any part of a charge for services that are not performed. You might benefit from reviewing the CFPB's examination manual to see how its field agents handle reported RESPA violations.

Tim Gatewood, CNSA, Notary Memphis

29 Oct 2014

Mr. Anderson, I see that there are links here for commentaries on the first 6 Guiding Principles and this article is about GP 7. I assume you or the staff at NNA plan to complete the set with commentaries on the remaining 3 GPs. Will there be a pdf file that can be downloaded that includes all 10 commentaries? If so, please include mention of it in the NNA newsletter (and the other usual channels) when it is ready. Thank you.

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