A useful SCDOT website for South Carolina dirt lawyers

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opposite-road-signs-sc-dot My colleague Tom Dunlop recently shared a South Carolina Department of Transportation website with me that is a nifty tool for determining whether the DOT maintains a road.  Check out the site here.

I entered my own street, Chimney Hill Road, and found out that the DOT does not maintain my street but that I could get more information from the Resident Engineer’s office at 803-786-0128. (I know Chimney Hill Road is marginally maintained by the City of Columbia from watching the repair of the pothole in front of my house at least annually.)  Here’s what the website shows:

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Then, I tried Garners Ferry Road (U.S. 76) and learned that the DOT does maintain this road.  Here’s the map:

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Trying another County, I entered one of my favorite roads (the road to the beach!), Highway 17 (Ocean Highway S) in Georgetown County. This road is maintained by the DOT, and the phone number for the local office, for more information, is 843-546-2405.

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Turning to the upstate, I tried Woodruff Road (SC 146) in Greenville County and learned that this road is maintained by the DOT, and the phone number for the local office, for more information, is 864-241-1224.

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I hope this website will provide real estate closing attorneys with some quick information when road maintenance becomes an issue.

The SC-NC Boundary Legislation Passed!

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SC law “clarifying” the boundary will be effective at the beginning of the year.

The long awaited and much debated legislation defining the boundary line between The Palmetto State and the Tar Heel State was signed by Governor Nikki Haley on June 10.  The effective date of the law is January 1, 2017.

The purpose of the law is “clarifying the original location of the boundary” with North Carolina along Horry, Dillon, Marlboro, Chesterfield, Lancaster, York, Cherokee and Spartanburg Counties and providing additional information about the plats describing the location along Greenville, Pickens and Oconee counties.  In other words, our legislature doesn’t believe the law establishes a new boundary line.

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As expected, much of the legislation deals with tax issues. The legislative intent is set out specifically, and includes the thought that no business or residence owner should be liable for back taxes to South Carolina nor refunds from South Carolina as a result of a change from one state to the other. And the Department of Revenue is given the authority to compromise taxes in cases that result in taxation in both states.

Several issues are of particular interest to dirt lawyers. For example, no deed recording fees or county filing fees may be charged for deeds recorded as a result of the boundary clarification.

On the effective date of the legislation, Registers of Deeds (and Clerks of Court in those affected counties that do not have ROD offices) will be required to file a Notice of State Boundary Clarification for each affected piece of property. The form is described specifically in the legislation and requires the legal description, tax map number, derivation (if available), the names of the owners of record and the “muniments of title”, a defined term meaning “documents of record setting forth a legal or equitable real property interest or incorporeal hereditament in affected lands of an owner”.

I’m a dirt lawyer of more years than I like to divulge, but I admit I had to investigate the meaning of that word. The learned source, Wikipedia, indicates a muniment of title is the written evidence a landowner can use to defend title, such as a deed, will, judgment or death certificate.

Apparently, lawyers in states with marketable title legislation may be familiar with this term. South Carolinians have neither the benefit of tidy legislation to correct our title problems nor the knowledge and widespread use of this nifty term, until now.  We will all need to use and pronounce the word, muniment, next year. A North Carolina colleague asked me where the RODs and Clerks of Court will obtain the information to supply the  muniments of title. My best guess is that somebody is going to have to do a lot of title work!

(Note to Professor Spitz:  I apologize if you taught me that term in law school. It’s been a long, long time!)

Also of interest to dirt lawyers are provisions relating to foreclosures. A foreclosing attorney will have to file and serve the summons and complaint along with the aforesaid Notice of Boundary Clarification and an attorneys’ certification “that title to the subject real property has been searched in the affected counties and the affected jurisdictions” on all parties having interest in the real property pursuant to the muniments of title.  Whew! The foreclosure can then proceed after thirty days. I’m not sure how all that will be sorted out. I assume South Carolina foreclosure lawyers will be hiring counterparts across the state line to assist in these title examinations.

How will dirt lawyers and title insurance companies deal with sales and mortgages for properties that change states?  I think we are going to take these issues on a case-by-case basis and work together to sort out the various issues that are surely to arise. Be sure to involve your title insurance underwriter in these decisions rather than going out on a limb alone!

The Strange Appearance of Title Insurance Rates on the New Closing Disclosure

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calculator paperIs this what the CFPB intended?

South Carolina closing attorneys are in the throes of their first closings under the new CFPB rules. Title insurance company offices are fielding all kinds of unusual questions as everyone works through their first few sets of documents. And our collective eyes are having difficulty adjusting to the appearance of title insurance rates on the new Closing Disclosure.

Under the filed rates of the title companies in South Carolina, we have a simultaneous issue rate of $100 for a second policy in a transaction. Typically, the owner’s liability amount and premium are higher, so the simultaneous issue rate of $100 is the charge for the loan policy.

The South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI) requires us to disclose the true cost of an owner’s policy over the cost of the loan policy. We have been accustomed to referring to this charge as the “difference plus $100” because we take the difference in the full cost of both policies and add the $100 simultaneous issue fee to arrive at the number the SCDOI requires.

Let’s look at an example:

In a purchase transaction, the sales price is $455,000, and the loan amount is $409,500.  The full premium for the ALTA Homeowner’s policy is $1,290.60, and the full premium for the loan policy is $981.00. In the past, the title and software companies’ rate calculators would have shown:

ALTA Homeowner’s policy rate: $1,290.60 (full premium)
Loan Policy (standard rate): 100.00 (simultaneous issue fee)
$1390.60 (total)

For the SCDOI required disclosure, we would have shown:

ALTA Homeowner’s policy rate: $409.60 (difference plus $100)
Loan Policy (standard rate): 981.00 (full premium amount)
$1390.60 (total)

The total of the two calculations was always consistent.

Now, the CFPB requires that the total cost of the loan policy be disclosed and any simultaneous issue discounts must be shown against the owner’s policy. That’s ok with our South Carolina eyes because we can use our “difference plus $100” calculation to reach the same result.

The problem occurs where there is a reissue credit. While the CFPB never specifically addressed how to handle a reissue credit, the agency was clear that the loan policy premium had to be reflected in full. So most of the title and software companies have decided to take the reissue credit from the owner’s policy premium as well.

In our example, let’s assume that there was a prior ALTA Homeowner’s policy in the amount of $315,000. The reissue credit would be $468.90 (half the full premium for $315,000), so the new total cost would be $921.70 ($1,390.60 – $468.20), and this is where the problem becomes more challenging:

ALTA Homeowner’s policy rate: $ -59.30 ($409.60 minus the credit of $468.90)
Loan Policy (standard rate): 981.00 (simultaneous issue fee)
$921.70 (total)

The total is the same (and correct in our collective view), but notice the negative number as the cost of the owner’s policy.

We have decided in our office to think about it this way. The Closing Disclosure is not a replacement for the HUD-1, and it is not a closing statement. It is simply what it is entitled, a closing disclosure that the CFPB requires for the consumer borrower.

We are going to have to prepare other documents (closing statements, disbursement analyses) that will allow us to properly disburse and to completely disclose each disbursement as required by the SCDOI, not to mention the South Carolina Supreme Court! And our eyes are just going to have to adjust to those negative numbers!

Thanks to Cris Garrick, the IT guru in our office who figured this out and convinced me it’s correct!