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Source of Title Blog : Consumer Advocacy

Ohio House Bill Introduced to Regulate Solicitation of Deeds
by Robert Franco | 2017/03/22

The "Deed Scam" was discussed here on Source of Title more than a decade ago, and it hasn't gone away.  It refers to the official looking letter that warns you that you need a certified copy of your deed and then offers to get it for you... for $70.00, or more.  Considering I can get a certified copy for about $6.00 at the court house, I have always felt that this was nothing but a scam.  And, I'm not alone. 

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Categories: Consumer Advocacy, Crime, Ohio Legislation

Source of Title Blog :: 3 comments ::

Freehold Capital Partners Still Trying to Securitize Private Transfer Fees
by Robert Franco | 2010/08/01

Undeterred by the several states that have banned the use of private transfer fees, Freehold is apparently still trying to find a way to securitize them.  The Wall Street Journal has reported that Freehold has approached several Wall Street banks to develop the securities, but has not yet struck a deal.

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Categories: Attorneys, Banking & Finance, Consumer Advocacy, General Interest, Legislation, Title Problems

Source of Title Blog :: 9 comments ::

Foreclosure Prevention Scams: Be Aware!
by Robert Franco | 2010/06/29

With so many homeowners in foreclosure, there are plenty of potential victims for scammers to prey on.  They are easy to find and desparate enough to be willing to try anything.  It is a dream come true for con artists who have a plethora of scams to run on unsuspecting homeowners who are in need of help.  The myriad of government programs, often complex in nature, make it easy for them to make their scam sound legitimate.  Homeowners need to be aware of the variety of schemes designed to rip them off.

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Categories: Consumer Advocacy, Crime, Foreclosures

Source of Title Blog :: 0 comments ::

Who Should Pay For The Owner's Policy?
by Robert Franco | 2010/01/18

There are certainly variations in custom from state to state, and even county to county.  In some locations, the seller is required to furnish an owner's policy to the buyer, in others the buyer pays for it if owner's coverage is desired.  I have always wondered about this difference and I thought it would be worth taking a closer look to see which makes more sense.  Add a comment and let us know what the custom is in your area and what you think about it.

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Categories: Attorneys, Consumer Advocacy, Realtors, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 6 comments ::

It's Now Easier To Sue A Sham AfBA In Ohio
by Robert Franco | 2009/01/30

The 6th Circuit recently ruled on an important case that will make it much easier to sue sham Affiliated Business Arrangements ("AfBA") for RESPA violations.  This may clear the way for private actions that will clean up the title industry - something the HUD and state regulators have been unable, or unwilling to do.  The court directly addressed the issue of whether a plaintiff must allege a concrete injury, such as an overcharge, in order to have standing to sue over a RESPA violation.  The answer - NO, an overcharge is not necessary for the plaintiff to have standing to bring the suit. 

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Categories: Consumer Advocacy, RESPA, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 0 comments ::

The Ohio Association Of Independent Title Agents Heads To The Ohio Supreme Court
by Robert Franco | 2008/10/03

Mandamus: A command by order or writ issuing from a court of law of competent jurisdiction, in the name of the state or sovereign, directed to some inferior court, tribunal, or board, or to some corporation or person, requiring the performance of a particular duty therein specified, which duty results from the official station of the party to whom the writ is directed, or from operation of law.  (Ballentine's Law Dictionary)

The Ohio Association of Independent Title Agents ("OAITA") has filed a Petition For Writ Of Mandamus with the Ohio Supreme Court asking the court to force the Ohio Department of Insurance ("ODI") to enforce laws that it has been ignoring.  Quite simply stated, the OAITA believes that the existing laws prohibit affiliated business arrangements ("AfBA") in Ohio, but the ODI has been lax in its enforcement and it has allowed many sham operations to become licensed and receive a share of title insurance premiums through a split of "profits."

In a press release, the OAITA stated:

The suit is the first of its kind in the United States and is an important step towards reducing the overreaching power and influence a bank, realtor and mortgage broker has over a homeowner’s real estate transaction and, in particular, a homeowner’s statutorily protected choice of title insurance provider.

This is a novel suit and brilliant in its simplicity.  There have been laws on the books for a long time prohibiting banks, Realtors and mortgage brokers from engaging in the title insurance business.  But, powerful lobby groups have been trying to find creative ways around them for years.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") carved out exceptions to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act ("RESPA") to allow for AfBA's, effectively eviscerating the anti-kickback provisions of Section 8. Everyone seems to have forgotten about the state laws... until now.  The OAITA has put this issue center-stage in Ohio and I'm sure it will draw national interest, especially from the lobby groups that have been successful in obtaining a share of the title revenue for doing nothing more than directing their customers to purchase their title insurance from an affiliated title agency.

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Categories: Consumer Advocacy, Ohio Legislation, Small Agents, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 2 comments ::

Must See Movie
by Robert Franco | 2008/05/30

It is, perhaps, the greatest documentary I have ever seen.  It's from 2006, but I just saw it for the first time last night on ShowTime.  You really have to watch this movie - everyone should see this movie.  If you don't have ShowTime, its available on DVD.

Maxed OutMaxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders, by James Scurlock, provides an excellent perspective on what consumer debt is doing to America.  The government's solution to our economic problems has been to encourage its citizens to keep spending to spur the economy.  While cheap, easy credit has kept our economy growing, those days are coming to a close.  Americans cannot afford to continue to prop up the economy at the expense of the individual; they are maxed out. 

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Categories: Consumer Advocacy

Source of Title Blog :: 1 comments ::

Only An Attorney
by Robert Franco | 2008/05/02

The Supreme Court of South Carolina is considering adopting guidelines or "best practices" for attorneys conducting residential or commercial real estate closings in South Carolina. The guidelines were developed by the South Carolina Bar Task Force on Closing Responsibilities.  While I do firmly believe that more attorney involvement in the real estate closing process would be a good thing for consumers and our industry, South Carolina may be going overboard with their proposed guidelines.

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Categories: Attorneys, Consumer Advocacy, Title Industry, Title Standards

Source of Title Blog :: 3 comments ::

Just Don't Buy It
by Robert Franco | 2008/02/21

In 2004, ALTA claimed that 48.8 million homeowners, an estimated 40 percent of U.S. Homeowners don't have an owner's policy of title insurance. I have shared a story about owner's policies before, but it is worth revisiting in light of a news article I came across today.

About ten years ago I took a couple of real estate classes at our local community college. They were the same courses that our Realtors take to get their realty agent's license. I thought it would be nice to know what kind of training they get so I could better serve them as a title agent. The text book we read said something like: "If you can get title insurance, you probably don't need it." That is "probably" true because title agents hate claims! It is our job to thoroughly search the title and correct any defects before issuing a policy, so there should be very few claims. However, the Realtor that taught the course boldly told the class that she recommended to her buyers that they NOT pay the extra premium for an owner's policy. She specialized as a "buyer's agent." Her logic was simple - the bank gets a policy, so the buyer doesn't need one. All I could do was cringe in my seat - and I tried to politely inject a bit of sanity into the discussion by telling her what kind of things could happen if the buyer opted NOT to get the coverage, but I don't think I had much of an impact. Like so many others, her attitude was basically, "if you do your job right, my buyer shouldn't have anything to worry about." Arrrg - it is tough to argue with that one, but some things are even beyond the agent's ability to discover.

Well... apparently she is not alone in her view that owners do not need title insurance. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times, Title Insurance Buying Tips, ends with similar advice.

Consider doing without: The risk of a title-related problem is so low that J. Robert Hunter, insurance director for the Consumer Federation of America, said people should think about not buying an owner's policy.

That advice may not be practical in Southern California, since home sellers here customarily provide the policy (and good luck trying to sell your house if you refuse to pay for title insurance). But in other locales, including the Bay Area, the buyer traditionally pays for the title insurance, so this may be an option there.

"Everybody has a different level of tolerance of risk," Hunter noted. "If you can't sleep at night, well sure, go ahead and get it. But just understand it's not a good economic risk."


I think a big part of the problem is the way we price title insurance. In some states, title insurance is an all-inclusive premium that includes the search and examination, as well as the time spent clearing the title. In other states, the search is a separate charge over and above the premium. But, either way, the agent gets a rather large share of the premium to at least subsidize the work that must be done before a policy can be issued. This is important work that must be paid for - and it should justify the cost of the premium.

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Categories: Consumer Advocacy, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 1 comments ::

Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007
by Robert Franco | 2007/11/09

For those of you who may not be aware, the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services has been working on H.R. 3915, dubbed "The Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007." The bill provides for licensing and registration of individual mortgage brokers and registration of bank employees that originate mortgages, creates residential mortgage loan origination standards, and establishes minimum standards for all mortgages. Not surprisingly, there are some provisions in the bill that have stirred up some controversy - mainly with mortgage brokers. But, there is no doubt that this is an extremely consumer-friendly bill.

Here are some of the highlights from the committee's press release and the full text of the Act:
Federal Duty of Care: All mortgage originators (including individuals as well as companies and banks that originate mortgages) will be subject to a federal duty of care that requires (1) licensing and registration, as applicable, under State or Federal law (including under subtitle A), (2) presenting consumers with appropriate mortgage loans (i.e., consumer has reasonable ability to repay and receives net tangible benefit, and loan does not have predatory characteristics), (3) making full disclosures to consumers, (4) certifying to lenders compliance with mortgage origination requirements, and (5) including a mortgage originator’s unique identifier in loan documents.

Anti-Steering: For mortgage loans that are not prime loans, no mortgage originator can receive, and no person can pay, any incentive compensation (including yield spread premiums) that varies with the terms of the mortgage loan (except for size of the loan and number of loans). Regulations will be promulgated to prohibit mortgage originators from (1) steering any consumer to a loan that the consumer lacks a reasonable ability to repay, does not provide net tangible benefit, or has predatory characteristics, (2) steering any consumer from a prime loan to a subprime loan, and (3) engaging in abusive or unfair lending practices that promote disparities among consumers of equal credit worthiness but different race, ethnicity, gender, or age.

Remedies: Remedies will be up to three times broker fees plus costs, including a reasonable attorney's fee.

There is quite a lot of benefit packed into just this short section and the Act goes on to define the specifics in great detail. And, really, it seems like a lot of common sense. License loan originators, require them to put consumers in appropriate loans that they can afford to repay and give the consumers a private right of action for violations that includes reasonable attorney's fees. That sounds like a good plan to me.

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Categories: Consumer Advocacy, Legislation, Mortgage Industry, Subprime Lending

Source of Title Blog :: 21 comments ::

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Source of Title Blog

Robert A. FrancoThe focus of this blog will be on sharing my thoughts and concerns related to the small title agents and abstractors. The industry has changed dramatically over the past ten years and I believe that we are just seeing the beginning. As the evolution continues, what will become of the many small independent title professionals who have long been the cornerstone of the industry?

Robert A. Franco
SOURCE OF TITLE

 

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