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Signing Agent Tip: What to do when loan documents arrive late

A person's wrist wearing watch.

Updated 10-4-23. If you are a Notary Signing Agent long enough, you will experience a time where loan documents arrive in your inbox later than you would like.

Ultimately, documents that don’t arrive on time may make you late to a signing appointment, or worse yet, also delay you from making additional signings scheduled that day.

As a Signing Agent mentor, I'm often asked, “How should a Signing Agent handle getting late loan documents?”

While there are several things you should do, they all revolve around one vital concept: Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Understand why loan documents arrive late

Before you understand how to deal with late loan documents it's important to understand WHY you get loan documents late in the first place. This will help you understand how to handle these situations. 

It’s not because the signing service doesn't care. They don't want you to be late to the appointment any more than you do, because that makes them look bad.

The most important thing to know about a signing appointment is that ANYONE in the process can schedule it — the escrow officer, the loan officer, a Realtor, and yes, even you as the Notary.

The second thing to know, and arguably more important, is that anyone can schedule the signing appointment WITH or WITHOUT loan docs actually being at the title office.

Here’s an example: At 10 a.m. the loan officer can tell the escrow officer that the borrower wants to sign loan docs at 5 p.m. that day (because the borrower told the loan officer that was the only time they would be available). The loan officer then promises that the loan documents will be at their office by noon.

So the escrow officer tells the signing service to find and assign a Notary for 5 p.m. that day, and you happen to be the Notary they assign.


Noon arrives and you haven’t received the loan documents. You patiently wait until it’s 3 p.m., and you’re stressed out because you know you still have to print the docs and drive in traffic, and you have to leave by 4:15 p.m. to make the 5 p.m. appointment. 

So what do you do? Be empathetic and understanding.

No one wanted this situation. The lender is stressed because they don't want to lose a $5,000 commission due to missing the window that the client can sign. The escrow company is stressed because they don't want an upset client. And the signing service owner is frantically awaiting loan docs to send to you.

It's the biggest mistake to think that the signing service isn’t stressed out. (I’m speaking from experience as I, too, am an owner of a signing service.)

Escrow and the signing service’s worst nightmare is that you cancel this appointment because loan documents are late. They will mean they have to scramble for another NSA even though they have told everyone involved there is a Notary already assigned to the signing appointment.

This is where your communication kicks in. Be PROACTIVE in communicating with everyone involved with the signing as well as others who may be affected by the late docs.

Let’s stick with the example where it’s 3 p.m., and you still do not have loan documents for your 5 p.m. appointment. 

Send a reminder to bring the file to top of mind

The first thing you want to do is email the signing service and ask them if they are expecting the documents anytime soon.

This brings your file back to top of mind, and they will email the escrow officer and remind them that the signing is 2 hours. 

Now let's say it's 3:30, and you still don’t have loan documents. At this point you will want to pick up the phone and remind the signing service that you need docs by 4:00 p.m. to get the appointment on time. If they don’t answer, leave a voicemail then email again. 

Communicate with the borrower

If it’s 4 p.m. and it’s apparent that you will be late, offer to call the borrower yourself to let them know that the lender had a delay getting the documents together and that you will be running late. 

Communicate your availability to complete the signing if docs come in a lot later

It is also good to let the signing service know if you have other signing appointments that could impact your availability to complete the signing if they loan documents come in much later. 

In this example, if you have a second appointment at 6:30 p.m., let the signing service know that the earliest you could reschedule is after the 6:30 appointment if you don’t get docs on time for the original 5 p.m. signing.

Be open to re-assignment if you can’t do it later

If loan documents come in so late that it’s affecting your next appointment(s), and you’re unable to reschedule for a later time that works for the borrower, then you could let the signing service know that you understand if they need to reassign a Signing Agent to accommodate a time that does work for the borrowers.

When you are understanding and flexible in this way, you will gain their respect and trust for future business.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

If you don’t have loan documents when you expect them, and your appointment is approaching, the key is to communicate. Communicate as often as you can with all parties involved.

Communicating relieves stress for you and for everyone in the process and will help you get more business.

It's really that simple. There's no need to be overwhelmed or anxious. Just communicate your schedule with the signing service and let the borrower know you will be running late because you don't have docs. It's really that easy.

There will be days as a Signing Agent where things are out of your control. That's called owning a business.

Remember, no one is purposefully withholding loan documents. This is a normal occurrence given the way that signing appointments get scheduled.

And lastly, this is your business that you run. If a client is always giving you late docs, it's okay to choose not to work with them any longer.

Do what is best for your business, always communicate, and you will build a huge business. 

Mark Wills of Loan Signing System is a Notary educator, a mentor to more than 4,000 Notary Signing Agents and a Forbes Real Estate Council Member. For more information on how to market your loan signing agent business, please visit

Related articles:

How to prepare for your first loan signing

Where do you start looking for Notary Signing Agent work?

The 5 most common Notary Signing Agent assignments

Additional Resources:

Notary Signing Agent Knowledge Center

Notary Signing Agent YouTube Playlist


Add your comment

Clayton Dixon

07 Nov 2022

Communication is certainly the key for late docs. However, let me share how communication is undermined by the title company. In the written instructions on the assignment order it states, "Never informed the borrower that the docs are late. The lender finds this unprofessional." I never have been given an intelligent answer, mixed with integrity, on what to say to the borrower the true reason why we need to adjust the time of the signing to accommodate late docs.

Irene Abbott

07 Nov 2022

This is great advice. I've found this to be true and the customer seems to be willing to be flexible most often. The only time it didn't work for me was when I had another appointment that caused me to have to let them reassign.

Mary Phibbs

07 Nov 2022

Great article!


07 Nov 2022

I will always contact the signing company and let them know what my latest cutoff time is to receive documents and further availability if not received in time. I get remote signings (1-2 hours driving time one way) and have to take in consideration travel time and other appointments; things the signing company may not be aware of. I usually reach out about 4 hours prior to an appointment time so everyone is made aware. There have been many times (especially when we were all crazy busy) that the title company/signing company had the documents and failed to send them. I will always keep the signer informed there might be a delay so they can accommodate their schedule too (leaving work early, travel time, other schedule conflicts). I will let the signer know there is a delay and my availability. This lets them also communicate with me their availability so I can pass that along to the signing company. I usually go above and beyond for my clients to accommodate everyone involved. If my schedule doesn't allow it then I will let the signer know that I have a conflict and will be removing myself as the notary and that they will more than likely be getting a confirmation call from a different notary. There have also been times that I contact the signer about the delay, and they are the ones to tell me there was an issue and it was cancelled.

S Miller

07 Nov 2022

What the article doesn't address is trying to get paid additional compensation if there is a significant change in the signing time as you could have booked a different assignment in the scheduled time slot. You generally get an "I am sorry" from the signing company but no compensation.

Sheryl D. Armstrong

22 Nov 2022

Signing Agent Tip: Late Documents Good morning: I have a few ideas or suggestions relating to compensation for the notary signing agent that can be communicated from the beginning of the assignments. Sometimes a life event has happened and/or things beyond our control appear in a particular day. Just remember every day is different and obstacles can and sometimes do arise; but we can handle all areas professionally that are in our control. 1. Be flexible with a wider window of availability in time for yourself. (Communicate upfront all possible timeframes exactly) 2. In the beginning, (a clause in writing stating that if documents are late, compensation will be paid for the waiting window of time). 3. The signing company can have more than one backup to cover late instances or unusual circumstances. That is when some form of compensation comes into reality. It's a fair win/win. 4. As the business world is changing; we can learn to be flexible with the necessary changes. I hope these suggestions help. Sometimes money isn't everything, but professionalism is when we have happy clients. As we make money or a living, the client or customer needs to be satisfied also the notary signing agents. Thank you for reading.

Maryanne Love

03 Mar 2024

Thank you very informative

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