ALTA’s Board approves revision to Best Practices

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Change would require ALTA ID

alta registry

The Board of Governors of American Land Title Association approved a motion on February 21 to revise the Title Insurance & Settlement Company Best Practices to include a requirement for companies to be listed in the ALTA Registry. The amendment is under a 30-day review period ending April 12. Comments may be sent to bestpractices@alta.org.

The proposed amendment to Pillar 1 of Best Practices includes the following requirement:

  • “Establish and maintain a unique ALTA Registry Universal ID (ALTA ID) using the ALTA Registry platform for each settlement office location (subject to those business entity types supported by the ALTA Registry).

ALTA, the national trade association of the land title insurance industry, formally launched the national ALTA Registry in 2017, allowing title insurance agents and settlement companies to communicate with underwriters to confirm their company name and contact information.

Using the ALTA Registry, lenders and their vendors are able to identify title agents, title underwriters and other participants in the closing process and communicate in a timely and consistent manner throughout the mortgage transaction.

Because there has been no unique ID number used across the industry to help match provider records in different databases, communication has often been difficult and costly for the title industry and its customers. This is especially important with new regulations driving vendor oversight requirements and the need for collaboration.

The ALTA Registry is a free, searchable online database of underwriter-confirmed title agent companies and underwriter direct offices. The registered information includes the title agent’s legal entity name, location and contact information. ALTA offers a unique 7-digit identifier, the ALTA ID, which is automatically assigned to each new database record as a permanent ID number and is never changed, reassigned or reused. ALTA ID numbers are available free of charge to title agents and real estate attorneys.

ALTA’s Best Practices is designed to assist lenders in managing third-party vendors. Pillar 1 requires title companies (closing attorneys in South Carolina) to maintain licenses for doing business in the title industry. This includes the license required by the South Carolina Department of Insurance and the ALTA policy forms license. The registry helps lenders determine they are working with legitimate title providers.

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Department of Insurance files data security bill in SC legislature

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Bill is similar to model data security law adopted by NAIC

If you are a SC title agent, this bill will likely affect you if it passes!

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) adopted the Insurance Data Security Model Law, intending to promote rigorous cyber risk management practices, in October. And the South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI) has introduced a similar bill in the South Carolina legislature. The South Carolina version, the South Carolina Insurance Data Security Act, is now in committee, and can be read here.

The model law creates data security standards for insurers and agents. The rules would apply to the real estate lawyers in South Carolina who are also title insurance agents. The rules require overseeing third-party providers, investigating data breaches and notifying consumers and regulators of data breaches.

security unlocked data breach

Insurers and agents will be required to have a written information security program for protecting sensitive date. Incident response plans and data recovery plans will also be required. Compliance certifications to the DOI will be required annually.

One important exemption applies to licensees with ten or fewer employees. This exemption will benefit small South Carolina law firms. Cyber security insurance may become a hotter commodity in South Carolina if this law passes, but the law is not intended to create a private cause of action.

We will watch this legislation and keep everyone posted on how it proceeds through the legislative process in South Carolina.

New DOI rule: SC title insurance agents must be fingerprinted (Lawyers included!)

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Listen up, South Carolina dirt lawyers!

All title insurance agents must be fingerprinted for their next license renewals! The Department of Insurance has passed a new rule, effective January 1, 2017, requiring fingerprinting for all resident producers.

The DOI published a bulletin which you can read here. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has established a contract with IdentoGo by MorphoTrust to handle the fingerprinting process. All title insurance agents will need to go to this company’s website, www.IdentoGo.com, to set up an appointment to be fingerprinted. Your zip code will be used to find the most convenient location.

fingerprints

It is important that you do not wait until the month your license renews to begin this process. The bulletin advises that scheduling and processing may take up to ninety days. The cost for fingerprinting is $50.50.

Every lawyer’s first question is going to be, can’t they use my fingerprints from my Bar application?  The answer, we have been told verbally, is absolutely not. The DOI is emphatic that it will not accept fingerprinting from any other agency nor any other vendor. Every lawyer’s second question is going to be, does this apply to my staff members who are licensed agents?  It does.

Nonresident producers are not required to be fingerprinted.

As a reminder, licenses are renewed in your birth month. If you were born in an odd-numbered year, your next renewal will be in 2017.  If you were born in January or February of an odd-numbered year, you may be late if you haven’t already begun this process.  For those born in even-numbered years, you are safe until 2018.

Good luck!  Call your title insurance company if you have questions or need assistance.

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!