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Proposed Virginia Regulation Would Require Notary Signing Agents To Be Licensed

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The National Notary Association is urging Virginia Signing Agents to voice opposition to a proposed regulation that would require NSAs in the state to become licensed settlement agents.

The State Corporation Commission is taking public comments through February 16, 2016. Notary Signing Agents who want to comment can do it through the Commission’s website. Scroll down to find entry INS-2015-00170 and click the “submit comments” link.

You also can send comments via U.S. mail to:

            Joel H. Peck, Clerk

            State Corporation Commission

            c/o Document Control Center

            P.O. Box 2118

            Richmond, VA 23218

Make sure to include a reference to “Case No. INS-2015-00170.”

Impact on Virginia NSAs
 

Under the proposal, anyone conducting a closing conference to sign real property documents and receiving funds would have to meet the licensing requirements for settlement agents. “Anyone” would include Notary signing agents. Among the requirements, you would have to obtain:

  • A license as a title insurance agent. To obtain a license, you’d have to take a pre-licensing course, pass the title examination and be appointed by a title insurance company.
  • An errors and omissions insurance police of at least $250,000 per claim or occurrence;
  • A fidelity bond of at least $100,000 per claim or occurrence; and
  • A surety bond of at least $200,000.

Below are the comments the NNA submitted.

The NNA’s Comments
 

The proposed regulations will require any person, other than a party to the transaction, who conducts the settlement conference and receives or handles money shall be deemed a “settlement agent” subject to the applicable requirements of Chapter 27.3 of the Code of Virginia and accompanying regulations.

This would mean that independent contractor Virginia Notaries Public who are signing agents would be required to become licensed as a settlement agent. We strongly urge you to reconsider this policy.

The duties of signing agents hardly rise to the level of requiring an additional license and the attendant financial responsibility of settlement agents in the commonwealth. The essentially clerical functions of signing agents include:

(1) receiving documents for a loan signing and printing them out, if the documents are received electronically;

(2) couriering the documents to the appointment at which documents are signed;

(3) presenting papers to be signed or initialed;

(4) notarizing any applicable instruments; and

(5) delivering the signed documents and any stipulations received from the borrower at the signing appointment to the overnight shipper or settlement agent handling the closing.

It should be pointed out that signing agents operate only under the direct supervision of a lender or a settlement agent. The signing agent may not advise a borrower about a loan or explain the terms of any document presented to the borrower; such advice and explanations may only be provided by the lender or settlement agent. If a borrower poses questions at a loan signing appointment, the signing agent may not answer the question, but instead must contact the settlement agent by phone from the signing table.

If the Bureau of Insurance adopts the proposed regulations, Virginia would be only one of four states that require Notaries Public who are involved in residential finance transactions to obtain a closing agent or title insurance producer license. In fact, in the last couple of years two jurisdictions – Utah and the District of Columbia – repealed their licensing requirements or provided carve-outs for Notaries Public because they understood the purely clerical and ministerial functions of a Notary Public do not necessitate licensure.

The rise of the signing agent in the commonwealth of Virginia and elsewhere is a pure expression of the marketplace in action, a sheer product of market need. The demand comes from lenders and settlement agencies, who seek to better serve Virginia consumers and expedite processing of a rising tide of loans, and from consumers, who seek convenience and ease in obtaining a mortgage. The many Notaries in communities around Virginia willing to be on call to bring their services as an impartial witness to the remotest client provide a sound business solution. It is the position of the National Notary Association that state governments should encourage – or at least not impede – the operation of what has proven to be an exceedingly useful vocation.

We respectfully urge you to reconsider the proposed regulation and to clarify in it that signing agents are exempt from the licensing requirements of settlement agents.

Text of the proposed Virginia regulation

9 Comments

Add your comment

Patsy M. Hevener

08 Feb 2016

Please vote NO to INS - 2015-00170. Thank you!

Georgia

08 Feb 2016

Thank you for the opportunity to speak out and voice my opinion. I oppose that Signing Agents should be licensed Settlement Agents or to sell Insurance.

Lisa

10 Feb 2016

We Virginia notary signing agents in cooperation with TItle companies have gotten around this for years by not handling funds directly but by having the borrower ship them separately. This opening paragraph indicates that it only applies to those handling funds. So as far as I can tell nothing would change I'm not sure I understand the problem.

Laxman Bhandari

10 Feb 2016

No new regulation..

Ollie Green

10 Feb 2016

Please vote NO to INS - 2015-00170. Thank you!

Debra Moyer

10 Feb 2016

Please do not add any additional regulations to notaries acting as signing agents on behalf lenders.

Anita

11 Feb 2016

I say no to this. I have had experiences where the lending agency does not always have the documents correct. I have received calls that "You need to copy these pages or the docs had to be redone" and that is just before I have to go to the appointment. It has been stated that we do not do the negotiations or try to explain to the borrowers our opinions about loans. They must speak with their lending agency and it is their responsibility to provide customer service to their clients. No! Why impose more on us?

BOB

20 Jul 2016

How will this effect the laws concerning notaries here in VA. People are forgetting that I quote "a notary acts as an official, unbiased witness to the identity and signature of the person who comes before the notary for a specific purpose. In each case the notary attests that certain formalities have been observed". It seems to me that we are being required to do more and more to assist the lenders who do less and less to assist us.and with less pay. Why they can not understand that we are witnessing agents and that this has nothing to do with being a notary. If it is because of handling money, that has and should be between the borrower and the lender as to how funds are to be transmitted and not the notary.. I say no to this proposal. Remember if it is not broken don't fix it.

Bob

20 Jul 2016

After reading Case # INS=2015-00170 I have only four questions. How in this busy world with two people working does this provide a convenience to the borrower? I always thought that Customer Service was important to ensuring good will. All this does is delete the use of a Notary Public,( which provides this service) require the borrower to be inconvenienced by having them go to a Title Company, loss of time at work, raise the cost of closing as an attorney will now do our job. Additionally with so many lenders being outside the Common Wealth of Virginia how will it affect them?. It appears a review should be in order. I respectfully request that this law be adjusted to incorporate the use of a notary public. The system works. Certainly something can be worked out to not require notaries be licensed for title insurance producer/escrow.since the only connection to this law is that we obtain the signatures for execution of the documents. Does this proposed law effect other laws which we as notaries are held. As to the handling of funds that has been and should be between the lender and borrower concerning how they are transmitted. It does not have anything to do with the notary, Please let us do our job.

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