Is the Title Industry Considered “Essential” Under Shelter-in-Place Orders?

Is the Title Industry Considered "Essential" Under Shelter-in-Place Orders?

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the U.S., most states have issued shelter-in-place orders to limit human-to-human contact. This means people across the country are now working remotely. It also means many organizations have had to shut their doors, as states have forced “non-essential” businesses to either close or limit their services. This necessary precaution has put a huge strain on the economy. 

However, there are many questions being raised surrounding the definition of “essential” business. This is a complicated issue, especially for the title industry. Real estate development and transactions require the involvement of a title company to provide title research and issue the proper insurance. Without this service, the property closing process comes to a screeching halt. The good news is, title companies may be able to continue to operate under shelter-in-place orders. Let’s drill down into this issue and also go over ways a title company can operate in a safe manner. 

Defining “Essential” Business

As more states have started to issue shelter-in-place ordinances, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), an operational component of the Department of Homeland Security, has developed the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.” This is an advisory list that identifies workers who provide services that are considered essential for continued critical infrastructure viability. The list is intended to help state and local governments as they work to protect their citizens. 

According to the advisory list, the title industry is considered “essential,” as it falls under the financial services sector. Workers in the title industry are defined as those “needed to process and maintain systems for processing financial transactions and services.” However, a title company will need to evaluate their individual state’s executive orders cover. It’s extremely important to check with local recording offices for guidelines and instructions and pay close attention to state and local shelter-in-place orders. 

How Remote Online Notarization Can Help the Title Industry 

During this national emergency, businesses are finding innovative ways to continue providing services remotely. This can prove to be a challenge in the title industry, as document notarization is critical during a property closing. For legal reasons, this process has traditionally been conducted in person. 

Fortunately, remote online notarization (RON) is now allowed in many states as a result of the SECURE Act. Using RON, the notarization process can take place with the use of audio/visual technology. This means the notary public and all parties involved in the signing of a document can conduct the notarization remotely. By taking advantage of this technology, a title company can complete closings and continue to serve their client base. However, it is important to note that you will want to verify with your Lender that they allow eClosings and accept RON for the transaction.

Stay Safe While Providing Title Services 

Title companies provide an essential function and are invaluable to the real estate industry’s infrastructure. However, it’s critical that organizations stay safe while conducting business during shelter-in-place orders. If you own a title company, look into RON services so closings don’t get stuck in limbo. It’s also important to use remote tools to your advantage while working from home. 

Alanna.ai develops AI-powered software for the title industry. To learn more, request a demo today.