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Signing Agent Tip: Sending Extra Notary Certificates

New-correcting-certificates-resized.jpgUpdated 4-15-19. Notary Signing Agents often are asked by title companies and signing services to include extra signed and stamped notarial certificates in the completed loan packages they return after an appointment.

The reason given is that the company wants extra certificates to rectify any mistake the NSA made in completing a notarial certificate on the mortgage, deed of trust or other notarized document in the loan package without having to send the entire document back for the NSA to correct. That would take precious time that could delay the closing of the transaction.

But this is a problem for NSAs. While you instinctively want to follow the instructions your clients give you, this one requires you to violate Notary law.

State Laws And Extra Notary Certificates

Many states address the issue of sending pre-signed, pre-stamped certificates, but they do it in different ways.

  • Some states, such as Florida, outright prohibit the practice.
  • Other states, such as California and Mississippi, require Notaries to complete the certificate at the time they sign and affix their seal. Notaries in these states who fail to do this can have their commissions suspended or revoked, and California Notaries could be fined.
  • Still other states’ laws say that a certificate must be completed “contemporaneously” with the performance of the notarial act, not before or after.
  • Maryland takes a different approach. Notaries there may only complete certificates that are already part of the document; they may not complete and use loose or separate certificates at all. So they cannot send additional, unattached certificates.

NSAs in states that do not have one of these explicit laws should follow the established professional standard of practice against providing these extra certificates to clients. In fact, much of the mortgage industry already recognizes that requests for extra certificates are inappropriate. The Notary Signing Agent Code of Conduct, drafted by the Signing Professionals Workgroup, specifically prohibits NSAs from complying with such requests.

Saying No To Your Client

As much as you might not want to, you will have to say “no” to any client who asks you to send extra certificates. Simply explain that it is against the law.  Every certificate you complete must be attached to, related to or connected to a specific document.

You also can remind the client that if an unattached certificate were to be used for fraud, they could be named in a lawsuit.

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

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10 Comments

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Barbara Morgan

30 Jan 2017

So, California forces us to do what other states prohibit?

Jeanne Fortier

30 Jan 2017

I was asked to attach a separate certificate when I had already notarized the document. It was not a real estate transaction. He was trying to cover all his bases, he said. Could I have written on the separate certificate the title of the document I had notarized?

National Notary Association

31 Jan 2017

Hello Jeanne. Just to clarify, did the signer ask you to re-notarize the document using a separate certificate, or did he want to you to provide him with an additional blank, incomplete notarial certificate?

Jennifer Baniqued

02 Feb 2017

Finally, the rules laid out! I've been a California Notary for over 8 years & now I'm in my 3rd term renewal. In my careers, I've been a signing agent, bank notary, mortgage loan officer, & am now an active real estate agent. During the time I've done signings via signing companies, I was appalled that they asked for "additional signed & stamped" loose notary certificates.. "just in case". California law requires me to document each certificate, but how can I do this if it doesn't belong to anything? (Oh signing company, so your telling me to provide 3 signed & stamped certificates for that 1 deed or you won't pay me? Uh.. no.) I know my job & know it pretty well, and although I understand that errors occur during these signings (usually from inexperienced notaries), the $50-$60 signing fee is not worth breaking the law. I know these companies continue to do this, and although getting notary jobs is important, Notaries must stick together. We all should start reporting these signing companies to the CFPB for investigation. I think Notaries can have a lot more business if they've eliminated the number of unethical signing companies out there. It's harder now to become an approved notary via a title company, which I'm not sure how these signing companies are doing it. Don't get me wrong, not all signing companies are bad. The ones who ask you to break the LAW in order for you to secure a job, there has got to be a better way to regulate.

Elizabeth Thomas

20 Feb 2017

Would you happen to know the statute number for Florida where it is prohibited? I'd like to print this out for reference and attachment to documents where I'm asked to do so. Closings for time-shares here in Florida are notorious for asking for the extra certificates and I'd like to be able to notate exactly why I'm refusing to sign them so that they cannot dock my fees. Thanks!!!

Dee

22 Apr 2019

Where does it state in the MD Handbook that we are not allowed to put a loose certificate. It says we cannot choose one. If for example it is a split signing and the first notary used the section. We cannot just do one without it being for a specific document. I would think no notary could.

National Notary Association

22 Apr 2019

Hello. The FAQ for Notaries at the Maryland Secretary of State's website (https://sos.maryland.gov/Notary/Pages/FAQ.aspx) states the following answer under the question: "May a notary public notarize a document which does not contain a notarial certificate after the signature line?"--"Please remember a notary should not affix certificate wording to a document if it does not already exist. Adding certificate wording could change the legal meaning of your notarization."

Jezzy

22 Apr 2019

I always put the title of the document I’m notarizing on the bottom of my notary page. I’ve noticed lately too that some company’s are sending notary pages with just notary verbiage and the page with no suggestion as to what it’s being attached to. Cover yourself notaries. Also, I was asked to notarize an incomplete document recently. Signing service and the title company knew what they were asking was illegal yet wanted it done anyway for the convenience of not having to be notarized later. It was a grant deed not naming a buyer (to be filled in later). Uh NO!

Mr. Oswald J. Bien-Aime

22 Apr 2019

It's common sense to know to put your foot down and say hell no!!!!

charlotte ann smith

22 Apr 2019

Seriously, who would even think this is a good idea. ….can you say "blank" check....

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