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CA SOS: State’s Notaries May Work During ‘Shelter In Place’ Order, With Precautions

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Updated 5-4-20 with new information from the California SOS office: 

UPDATE: Remote online notarizations (RON) are currently not permitted in California. As of May 4, 2020, the California Secretary of State's website has posted the following response to questions about RON in California:

"California Law does not provide the authority for California notaries public to perform a remote online notarization. The personal appearance of the document signer is required before the notary public. However, California citizens who wish to have their documents notarized can seek a mobile California notary public." 

***

The California Secretary of State reports that Notaries in California are permitted to perform notarizations, and will not be penalized for doing so, during the current COVID-19 “shelter in place” order as long as there are no restrictions from individual county health officers, and you follow federal, state and local guidelines to protect public health.

The clarification was welcome news for California Signing Agents during the critical end-of-the-month period when most mortgage loans are closed and Signing Agents are in high demand. 

The Secretary of State's office issued its official statement Tuesday at the request of the National Notary Association to dispel unsubstantiated rumors that Notaries — particularly mobile Notaries and Signing Agents — would face administrative, criminal, and/or significant fines if they were found to be working during the state’s shelter in place order.

“Although the California Secretary of State's office cannot determine whether or not notarial services provided are deemed essential during this pandemic, California Notaries Public are not prohibited from performing a notarial act during a shelter in place order. However, our office does recommend that California Notaries Public contact their respective county health officers for guidance,” the Secretary of State’s office said in its statement.

“The California Secretary of State's office will not take administrative action against a Notary Public for performing a notarial act where a shelter in place order has been given,” added Bill Downs, the Secretary’s Notary Section Manager.

Despite the statewide clarification, Notaries are being urged to follow all prescribed health and safety procedures, to abide by any safety or procedural changes issued by your contracting party in the mortgage finance industry, and to use common sense when going on assignment. In general, if you are called to perform notarizations for an “essential service,” like mortgage closings or health care related documents, consider fulfilling the request if it’s safe. Other non-essential notarizations should be left for completion when the crisis lifts.

The SOS statement follows a memo issued by U.S. Department of the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that declared the nation’s financial services sector workers were a part of the country’s “essential critical infrastructure.” Mnuchin explicitly named “settlement services” as essential critical infrastructure. Signing Agents and many mobile Notaries provide financial settlement services.

“If you work in a critical infrastructure sector, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule,” Mnuchin said. However, “Everyone should follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local officials regarding strategies to limit disease spread.”

The Notary Bulletin will continue to provide critical updates on changes to notarial practices and procedures as they occur amid the COVID-19 crisis.

 

 

37 Comments

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Mirela Nelson

24 Mar 2020

Are Oregon Notaries allowed to work?

National Notary Association

25 Mar 2020

Hello. While we do not have specific information from Oregon's Notary-regulating office at this time, here is a link to the Governor's statewide order regarding COVID-19: https://govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19. We will update our information in the Bulletin if we receive any new instructions or updates for Oregon Notaries.

medranodigitalmarketing@gmail.com

24 Mar 2020

good read

Jackie

25 Mar 2020

Is there going to be Remote signing in NJ soon??

National Notary Association

25 Mar 2020

Hello. We do not have confirmed information on any official changes to New Jersey Notary rules at this time. If we receive any official updates, we will add them to our COVID-19 coverage in the Bulletin as soon as we can.

Nathan

25 Mar 2020

Hello. Is there a link to the CA SOS to confirm this. I can't seem to locate it on their website. Thank you.

National Notary Association

25 Mar 2020

Hello. The information and guidance for California Notaries in the article was provided to us directly by Bill Downs, Notary Section Manager for the California Secretary of State's office.

Angela Cook

25 Mar 2020

Can you address whether or not we are allowed to skip thumbprints temporarily in CA? It is not safe to share those at this time.

National Notary Association

25 Mar 2020

Hello. According to the information we have currently, there are no changes to CA thumbprint requirements for notarizations at this time.

Vanessa Maples

25 Mar 2020

Are ohio notaries allowed to work?

National Notary Association

25 Mar 2020

Hello. At this time, we have not received any specific information or instructions from Ohio state officials regarding Notary activity. If we receive any new information on Ohio from official sources, we will add it to our COVID-19 coverage for Notaries in the Bulletin as soon as possible. In the meantime, Ohio Notaries should comply with all health safety directives from federal, state and local officials. You can find information on the OH stay at home order at: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/ and contact the Ohio Department of Health with questions at 1-833-427-5634.

Michael Burnstein

25 Mar 2020

Is the California Secretary of State statement in written form somewhere or was this a phone call? I am so far unable to find the statement on the Secretary of State website.

National Notary Association

26 Mar 2020

Hello. The information and guidance for California Notaries in the article was provided to us directly by Bill Downs, Notary Section Manager for the California Secretary of State's office.

Daisy Montano

26 Mar 2020

If u work for a transportation co. And we need documents notarized, can I still notarize the signature of the owner of the company?

National Notary Association

27 Mar 2020

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please confirm what state you are commissioned in?

Manuel Flores

27 Mar 2020

Virtual Notarization allowed in CA? I am commissioned in CA and I have contacted to perform a notarial act, however, the State has been ordered to Shelter in Place and although considered essential, I am a bit hesitant. Could you clarify if the following applies to CA? the legislation would make remote online notarizations legal around the country. Every notary in the United States would be allowed to notarize remotely. Multifactor authentication and an audiovisual recording of the notarial act would help prevent fraud.

National Notary Association

27 Mar 2020

Hello. At the present time, remote notarization has not been authorized in California. We are monitoring the progress of the proposed federal bill and other state emergency guidelines for Notaries and will update our readers as the situation develops.

Nathan

27 Mar 2020

Really? 70% of your membership is mobile notaries, and your recommending to go around then with out-of-state RON? Thanks, for helping me save money in this hard time by cancelling my NNA membership! #stabbedintheback

Gene Osofsky

27 Mar 2020

Good article, but deficient in not providing a link to the Sec. of State's announcement "on Tuesday". Cannot find it on the SOS website.

National Notary Association

27 Mar 2020

Hello. The information and guidance for California Notaries in the article was provided to us directly by Bill Downs, Notary Section Manager for the California Secretary of State's office.

Monica Hartenberg

27 Mar 2020

I see other states have made certain allowances for remote notary. Have there or will there be any discussions on possibly allowing this for CA notaries?

National Notary Association

27 Mar 2020

Hello. At this time, CA does not authorize remote notarizations, and we have not heard of any new changes to this. However, if we receive any new information on this subject, we will update our articles in the Bulletin as soon as possible to keep you and our other readers informed.

Roy Carroll

31 Mar 2020

Do you know if California will comply with the Federal Bill to allow RON if the bill is passed?

National Notary Association

31 Mar 2020

Hi Roy. We are monitoring the federal bill closely and will let our readers know if there are any new developments that impact California as soon as possible.

Christy

31 Mar 2020

Hello, I hope you're doing well. May I ask if non-essential notarizations in California are permitted at this time?

National Notary Association

31 Mar 2020

Hello Christy. As stated in the article above, California Notaries Public are not prohibited from performing a notarial act during a shelter in place order. However, the CA Secretary of State's office does recommend that California Notaries Public contact their respective county health officers for guidance, and follow the instructions of local health officials.

Sally

01 Apr 2020

This is all so confusing. The SOS article says, "Additionally, while remote online notarizations (RON) are currently not permitted in California, you can safely advise signers to use an out of state RON service if they need it. “California citizens who wish to have their documents notarized remotely can obtain notarial services in another state that currently provides remote online notarization. California Civil Code 1189(b) provides that any certificate of acknowledgment taken in another place shall be sufficient in this state if it is taken in accordance with the law of the place where the acknowledgment is made,” according to the SOS statement." This makes it sound like I can get my document notarized online and it will be legal. Am I right?

National Notary Association

01 Apr 2020

Hello. To clarify, California Notaries are not authorized to perform remote online notarizations. However, signers in California with health concerns about face-to-face contact during the shelter in place order may choose, if they wish, to seek out the services of a Notary in another state who is authorized to perform remote online notarizations for out-of-state signers. You would need to contact the agency that will receive the notarized document to ask if there would be any issues with the agency accepting a document notarized using RON.

sheff6@gmail.com

06 Apr 2020

California is putting California notaries in a life threatening positions. If a notary in California contracts COVID-19, especially if they were to die of complications, I hope their family sues Bill Downs, Notary Section Manager for the California Secretary of State's office. The rest of us ought to sue because they are forcing us to put our lives at risk when RON technology is available and good enough that they are saying that Californians who need necessary documents notarized can should be referred to out of state services who do offer RON services. Bill Downs, Notary Section Manager for the California Secretary of State's office is responsible for killing our business and possibly for killing us.

Katrina Belmonte

07 Apr 2020

Has CA made any exceptions to ID expiration dates due to COVID-19? I have a borrower whose ID expired 3 days ago and was issued just over 5 years ago. She has her receipt from DMV for her renewal on 3/28/20 but has not received her new ID.

National Notary Association

07 Apr 2020

Hello. We have not received any new information from California Notary officials on ID requirements at this time.

Amy Koster

20 Apr 2020

Why is California not allowing RON currently. I have a higher risk of getting the corona virus and therefore I am not currently working. I am very concerned that my business will dry up and be non-existent if and when I can return to in person signings. Please tell me why the CA SOS and Bill Downs, the Notary Section Manager feel it is necessary to put Notaries in harms way in order to make their wages. Why can't CA authorize remote notarization temporarily and then revert back to in person when it is safe?? Please help me to understand.

Golden Gate Mobile Notary & Apostille

20 Apr 2020

One thing that should be noted here is that Remote online notarizations that are completed another state that allows them can be problematic for documents being filed here. For example, we've had many Estate Planning clients have their trusts notarized online (from a different State) and they are trust transfer deeds which need to be recorded in California are not being accepted since California requires personal appearance. While California Civil Code 1189(b) provides that any certificate of acknowledgment taken in another place shall be sufficient in this state if it is taken in accordance with the law of the place where the acknowledgment is made,” according to the SOS, I can tell you first hand that County recorders have been consistent in not accepting deeds that were Notarized via RON. Now I'm not for or against RON right now, but I just figured that it should be noted that there is a clear discrepancy here and I'm hoping that the State clarifies one way or the other with regards to what is accepted vs what's not. Just my two cents! Hope everyone is keeping safe. Golden Gate Mobile Notary & Apostille Ph: 415-318-0163 W: https://www.goldengatenotary.net E: kyle@goldengatenotary.net

John Mead

28 Apr 2020

Let me get this straight, the CA-SOS allows for RON performed by notaries that are located in another state (provided that State allows for it), which means the State of California has no oversight authority or control over those notaries. Yet they don't allow for RON by the notaries that the State does have oversight authority and control over. Wow, that tells me the State of California SOS doesn't trust its own notaries, but does trust those from a different State that they have no jurisdiction over. Please help me understand how that even makes sense?

Andrew Gradman

01 May 2020

Hi, in this article, you quote the webpage of the CA SOS as saying, “California citizens who wish to have their documents notarized remotely can obtain notarial services in another state that currently provides remote online notarization. ..." I personally saw this language as well, when I visited https://www.sos.ca.gov/notary/faqs/ on April 13. However, when I checked again on April 30, this was deleted and now says: "However, California citizens who wish to have their documents notarized remotely can seek a mobile California notary public." Are you aware of the CA SOS having changed its policy during that period?

National Notary Association

05 May 2020

Hello. Thank you for reaching out. We are aware of the change and have updated the article accordingly to reflect the latest message from the Secretary of State's office.

G Peery

04 May 2020

So Congress insists on returning in session if they have remote temperature sensors, facemasks and gloves available, and plexi glass separators. Notaries on the other hand or not as lucky. We are supposed to go into Holmes and ask them if they feel well enough to sign. I dare say any congressman or state representative would not do so out of a sense of self-preservation. However California seems to think we have enough Remote notaries or this quarantine is a farce which notaries should be able to see as such and ignore Everyone else’s health advisories. Sacrificial employment is not my idea of fun.

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