Minimum Standards Revised for ALTA/NSPS Surveys

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Celebrating the festival of Terminalia?

surveyorAmerican Land Title Association and National Society of Professional Surveyors have spent two years working on a new set of minimum standards for surveys. Their efforts resulted in the adoption of new 2016 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys which go into effect on February 23.  The standards can be found here.

A notable change is the title which acknowledges the merger of ASMC with NSPS. The list of atypical interests in real estate has been expanded to clearly include easements. And a surveyor should now be provided with the most recent title commitment. The term “record documents” has been abandoned in favor of referencing documents that are “to be provided to the surveyor”.

A significant change is the new duty of the surveyor to show “the location of each edge of the traveled way”, including divided streets and highways. The 2011 standards required showing the “width and location of the traveled way”. The change will require surveyors to show the width of the dedicated road in addition to the width of the asphalt.

The requirement to show water features has beefed up. Previously, surveyors were required to show springs, ponds, lakes, streams and rivers bordering or running through the property. Now surveyors must also show canals, ditches, marshes and swamps if any are “running through, or outside but within five feet of the perimeter boundary of the surveyed property.”

If a new legal description is prepared, the surveyor must include a note stating that the new description describes the same real estate as the record description, or if it does not, then the surveyor has to explain how the new description differs from the record description.

The surveyor must now show all observable evidence of both easements and utilities on his plat. Previously, there was some confusion as to whether both had to be shown.terminus 2

There are other modifications, most of which will assist surveyors while not diminishing the value of their surveyors to commercial practitioners and title insurers.

What’s the significance of the date? The Roman god Terminus protected boundary markers. The name “Terminus” was the Latin word for boundary marker. On February 23, Roman landowners celebrated a festival called Terminalia in honor of Terminus. Let’s throw a party!

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American Land Title Association is Working for Us

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Letter to CFPB asks for clarity.

mountain climbers helping handAmerican Land Title Association’s January issue of TitleNews reports that ALTA reached out to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by letter dated Nov.23, asking for clarity in three areas of the TRID regulations.

The first area of concern is generating a great deal of angst among South Carolina closing attorneys, that is, the attempt by lenders to shift liability to settlement agents for all compliance issues, including compliance with the new federal law.

Here in South Carolina, we are seeing modified closing instructions that explicitly shift this liability to closing attorneys and often include indemnity language. The attorney is being asked to indemnify the lender for the liability the federal law has clearly imposed on lenders.

By the way, I urge South Carolina real estate lawyers to become members of the South Carolina Bar’s Real Estate Section. The Real Estate Section provides its members with access to its Listserv, which can be found at realestatelaw@scbar.org. The forum is a great place for South Carolina real estate lawyers to share ideas and frustrations as well as a place to seek information and advice from peers.

The frustration of real estate lawyers regarding this issue is obvious in that forum. It is a great place for lawyers to share their ideas as well as their frustration.

Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s Executive Director, said in the Nov. 23 letter to the CFPB, “These instructions are in contrast to the clear public policy underpinning this rule, as well as language in the rule stating that lenders bear ultimate liability for errors on the Closing Disclosure form.” According to TitleNews, ALTA provided the CFPB with several examples of the offending closing instructions.

The second area of concern is the disclosure of title insurance premiums on the Closing Disclosure and particularly the very odd negative number that appearing for the cost of owner’s title insurance. The calculation methods of the CFPB seem to be dictating this negative number in many cases, but in what world is that logical? And how does that negative number supply clarity to consumers?

The third and final area of concern expressed ALTA’s Nov. 23 letter is the confusion surrounding seller credits on the Closing Disclosure. Lenders and closing attorneys are struggling with whether to list seller credits as individual line items on the CD or to consolidate them and disclose them under a general “seller credits” heading.

All of us in the industry should be appreciative of ALTA’s efforts to assist in this push for clarity. I urge South Carolina lawyers to join ALTA and to pay attention to and support its efforts in our behalf.

So You Say Ninety Percent of TRID Loans Contain Violations?

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Worse than rocket science? Perhaps.

thumbs downAccording to a news report from American Land Title Association, Moody’s Investors Services has written that several third-party firms found TRID violations in more than 90% of the loans that were audited.

ALTA states that Moody’s report indicates that this “informal feedback” was based on reviews of around 300 mortgages from around a dozen unidentified lenders, and that many of the violations were “only technical in nature”, like spelling errors. But Moody’s is apparently concerned that the secondary market may be affected by the sheer number of violations.

There appears to be a disconnect between this reporting and the perception of Director Richard Cordray of the CFPB. In a speech at the Consumer Federation of America, Director Cordray recently said that the housing industry’s concerns about TRID appear to have been “overblown”. He said that reports from industry participants across the market seem to be indicating that implementation of the new rule is going “fairly smoothly”. He even stated that the anxieties in the market were much like the predictions of technological disasters stemming from Y2K, which never materialized.

What do we, as South Carolina attorneys, do with this information?

  1. Take some comfort in the fact that we are not the only ones struggling with TRID.
  2. Do the best we can to comply with TRID rules.
  3. Do the best we can to comply with South Carolina Supreme Court requirements that we fully disclose all funds involved in closings. I believe we must prepare and deliver closing statements, in addition to TRID required Closing Disclosures, to make the proper disclosures. ALTA’s closing statements, which should be available on all the closing software programs, are excellent forms to use.
  4. Talk to each other about the struggles. Collectively, we should be able to resolve some of the problems.
  5. If you need backup on a position, call your title insurance company lawyers. They are hearing it all these days and may be able to help with a particular lender or an odd position.
  6. Lenders are attempting to shift the burden of compliance to closing attorneys through indemnity
    language being inserted in closing instructions or by separate letter. Closing attorneys should resist
    agreeing to this additional liability if at all possible. Negotiate! Be strong!

And if all else fails, I understand that NASA is taking applications for the next class of astronaut candidates. Maybe alternative employment is possible.

astronaut

 

More CFPB News: A Possible Deadline Extension and a Useful Toolkit

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 Don’t get excited about the rumor!

gossipWhen Steven Antonakes of the CFPB spoke to a group of consumer bankers on March 25, he initiated a series of news articles and fueled a rumor mill among bankers and others that the August 1, 2015 date for implementation of the new integrated mortgage disclosures might be extended.

Mr. Antonakes was responding to a concern that some industry vendors may not be ready for the deadline.

Here’s the quote that caused the ruckus: “To the extent there is new information or we’re hearing directly from vendors that folks aren’t going to be ready…we should continue to talk about that. I can’t promise you (changes) but to the extent we will have a better understanding of the concerns, that is something we will consider.”

Lenders and others unquestionably got their hopes up that the August 1 date would be extended. But CFPB spokesman Sam Gilford quickly stated that the bureau has no current plans to delay implementation.

And Michele Korsmo, CEO of America Land Title Association said in an ALTA Advocacy Update of March 30, “Before anyone gets excited, I am telling you today that implementation of the new Integrated Mortgage disclosures will be required on August 1st, 2015.”

 Don’t count on the deadline being extended. Get ready!

Lenders continue to hope for leniency in the enforcement for a period of time after August 1, but no strategy for lenience has been implemented to date.

In other CFPB news, the bureau recently released a “Know Before You Owe” home loan toolkit, a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help consumers understand the closing process. The toolkit contains interactive worksheets and tips for obtaining additional information. I encourage closing attorneys to use this guide to educate clients.

We have all been concerned about owner’s titletoolbox insurance being called “optional” in the new disclosures. I was encouraged to see that this toolkit contains positive information about title insurance, including the fact that title insurance can safeguard the owner’s financial investment. Common claims were stated to be outstanding taxes and mechanics’ liens.

This toolkit might be a good tool for all of us!

Collaboration is King!

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ALTA’s CFPB webinar emphasizes that the exchange of data will be the biggest challenge to the closing process after August 1, 2015.

American Land Title Association’s value to closing attorneys grows each day as August 1, 2015 approaches. Closing forms will change dramatically later this year, and ALTA is valiantly attempting to keep those of us who plan to remain in this game ahead of the learning curve.

pawns king crown - small featheredSouth Carolina has strong representation in ALTA! Cynthia Blair, a real estate attorney in Columbia, sits on ALTA’s board and participated in this webinar. Each time Cynthia said, “In my state” we knew we were about to receive information specific to us. This local support at this critical time is invaluable, and I strongly encourage South Carolina closing attorneys to join ALTA.

Yesterday, ALTA hosted an excellent webinar entitled “5 Key Areas to Prime Your Operation for the New Closing Process”. The webinar was attended by more than 1,100 of us! The strong message was “Collaboration is King”.

Closing attorneys and lenders will work more closely together than ever to manage and share information. Some lenders have indicated they will deliver the Closing Disclosure to the borrower, but others will require the closing attorney to deliver it. The seller’s form will be prepared by the closing attorney, and a copy of it must be provided to the lender.

The underlying information for the closing documents will be located in two systems: (1) the lenders’ loan origination systems (LOS) will contain the loan-centric information; and (2) the closing attorney’s systems (sometimes referred to as the “title platform”) will contain the property-centric information. Large lenders are likely to utilize entirely electronic systems that will avoid rekeying of information to reduce the possibility of errors. The two systems will talk to each other via platforms that are now being developed.

Embrace ALTA’s Best Practices

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 BestPractices2Some real estate practitioners are furiously bringing themselves into compliance with ALTA’s Best Practices, while others are furiously ignoring the entire topic or, at best, waiting until they hear marching orders from lenders. I propose that we all step to the plate and embrace Best Practices.

Residential practitioners can and should use compliance as a marketing tool. Some commercial practitioners are assuming that when lenders become educated and begin demanding compliance from residential practitioners, they will naturally ask for the same or similar compliance from commercial practitioners. Striving for compliance is an opportunity for all practitioners to demonstrate to their clients, to real estate agents and to lenders their value in real estate transactions.

ALTA is now encouraging practitioners to conduct a self-assessment of their adoption of Best Practices by September of 2014. Time may be of the essence because a practitioner may first hear marching orders from a lender in connection with a specific real estate closing. If it is impossible to demonstrate compliance quickly, that closing will likely be lost to someone who is better prepared.Best-Practice-processes

I am convinced that the numbers of residential real estate practitioners in South Carolina will be drastically reduced in the next year or two. Attorneys approaching retirement age may decide to retire rather than to learn how to use the new forms. Large law firms  who handle commercial transactions may decide that residential transactions are no longer worth the effort. Left standing will be the practitioners who embrace this change and tackle it now. There is opportunity for growth for those who act wisely in the face of change.

Title insurance companies are willing and able to help and have resources that can ease the pain. But no outsider can do the actual work. Each pillar requires careful consideration from a management standpoint, and only the closing attorneys themselves can make the necessary decisions for implementation. Each pillar will require on-going demonstration of compliance. Files must be papered. Calendars must be tickled. Software and hardware must be kept current. Compliance will not be a matter of establishing written procedures and continuing business as usual. We should establish a culture of compliance and make it the responsibility of all employees.

I can’t say this strongly enough: At some point, practitioners will either have to embrace compliance or get out of the game. The time to act is now.

If you want to continue to handle residential real estate transactions, call your title insurance company today and ask for assistance in nailing down each pillar.