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Source of Title Blog : Notaries Public

Acknowledgments in Ohio
by Robert Franco | 2011/10/14

In late 2001 the Ohio legislature passed a bill which included statutory forms of conveyance that contained a new acknowledgment clause.  Within a few months, prior to the effective date of the former bill, it introduced and passed a new bill making further changes.  There was some language related to the acknowledgments that was proposed, but never passed, that made its way in to subsequently recorded deeds.  Some seem to question the validity of these acknowledgments.  Whether they are valid or not depends on the precise language used, but they may be perfectly fine.

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Categories: Abstractors, Attorneys, Notaries Public, Ohio Legislation, Title Problems

Source of Title Blog :: 3 comments ::

New No-No's In Ohio
by Robert Franco | 2009/07/02

This month in Ohio, House Bill 525 went into effect requiring very strict formatting on documents to be recorded in the recorders' offices across the state.    Any document that does not conform will be be accepted ONLY if an additional $20 recording fee is paid.  It seems, like many well-intentioned laws, this one too will come with some unexpected consequences.  There are several common practices that may end up costing title companies lots of extra money if they aren't very careful. 

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Categories: Abstractors, Notaries Public, Ohio Legislation, Public Records, Small Agents, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 4 comments ::

A Suspicious Acknowledgment
by Robert Franco | 2009/04/13

In Ohio, documents used require both an acknowledgment by a notary and two witnesses.  There were a lot of cases where the witnesses weren't actually present when the documents were executed.  Often times, a notary signing agent would go to the borrowers' homes and the documents were returned to the office where someone there would add the witnesses signatures.  It didn't take long for the bankruptcy trustees to catch on and they were able to set aside mortgages that were not properly executed.

In response, the Ohio legislature changed the law - now, only the notary is required, no witnesses are needed.  This was probably the result of real estate, mortgage and title industry lobbying efforts.  But, I wonder now if even this lax standard is being properly followed.  I came across a document that set off warning bells.

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Categories: Attorneys, Ethics, Notaries Public, Title Industry

Source of Title Blog :: 2 comments ::

I'm Out Of The Office For One Day And Someone Steals The Empire State Building
by Robert Franco | 2008/12/03

Thank you to Robert Breakell and George Booth for posting the link to the story in the forums.  It really should be no surprise, but it is probably the biggest hoax in the city since George C. Parker sold the Brooklyn Bridge in the 19th century.  Parker allegedly sold the bridge twice a week for years. 

Apparently, in an effort to demonstrate how easy it is to file a fraudulent deed, the Daily News forged the documents necessary to "swipe the Empire State Building."  It only took them about 90 minutes to steal the New York landmark.  Unfortunately, they have just educated many crooks that will likely encourage more deed fraud.  And, the "loophole" they cite as the flaw that made it possible, shows a real lack of understanding of the way our industry works.

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Categories: Fraudulent Transfers, Notaries Public, Public Officials, Public Records

Source of Title Blog :: 2 comments ::

Choose Your Poison Carefully
by Robert Franco | 2008/07/02

The title industry is rapidly changing and there are two distinct movements afoot: one dominated by the underwriters and the other is attorney controlled.  There is no shortage of critics on either side of the battle, however, most seem to prefer neither.  That is not realistic - one side will win in the end and the many small independent agents and abstractors are going to get squeezed out of the industry.  It may be time to step up and realize that changes are coming and get behind one or the other... so choose your poison carefully.

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Categories: Abstractors, Attorneys, Competition, Escrow/Funding, Notaries Public, Small Agents, Title Industry, Title Standards

Source of Title Blog :: 8 comments ::

The Ethically Challenged Targets Signing Agents
by Robert Franco | 2007/12/28

Back in September, I ranted about what I considered to be a very unethical practice - notifying vendors that their fees were being reduced via email and placing the burden on them to contact the company if the fee reduction was unacceptable. In my opinion, if you want to negotiate a fee reduction you should get an "approval" from the vendor.

Now the same company, First American, has struck again; this time targeting the signing agents. In a mass email to their vendors, First American Signature Services will be changing their electronic document fee.

Due to current market conditions, effective January 1st, 2008 we will be changing our electronic document fee to $25 per signing order. This electronic document fee notification supersedes any previous fee agreements from First American Signature Services. If this fee reduction is not agreeable and you would like to be removed from our list of signing agents for business, please email our vendor relations team at fass.vr@firstam.com. Thank you for your understanding in this sensitive matter.

This email was followed up with a clarification.

Please be advised, the earlier fee change notification pertains to the electronic printing of documents only. This document printing fee is in addition to the standard signing fee paid per order.

My first problem with this email is First American's perception of who's fee this is: "...we will be changing our electronic document fee..." It isn't their fee, it is the signing agents' fee. If they want to change, or renegotiate, a vendor's fee they should contact them and see if they can work something out. It never hurts to ask, right? But, why ask when you can be this arrogant and tell the vendor what they will charge? Would they ever dream of emailing their electric company and telling them that they are changing the amount the electric company charges?

From what I have heard, the signing agents are much more defensive of their fees, and better organized, than the abstractors. I wonder how this will go over with that crowd. There is a discussion on the Notary Rotary forums and it doesn't appear that the email was accepted graciously.

$25 is the fee for an electronic signing. I told them to outsource it to India where they outsource their title work. I'm not driving to a borrowers home for that.

Come on people, are you that hard up to accept this fee change. Some of you are and this will help throw you out of the signing business. You will get what you deserve.

In fairness, there seems to be some confusion over the fee that is being reduced. Which is likely why the clarification was sent out. But, regardless, this is a very poor way to work with vendors.

Once again - it is First American. What is up with this company? They continue to prove that they are deserving of the "ethically challenged" label I slapped them with back in September. They have no respect for other professionals in the industry - where would they be today without their abstractors and signing agents?

Robert A. Franco

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Categories: Ethics, Notaries Public

Source of Title Blog :: 11 comments ::

Attorney Closings
by Robert Franco | 2007/03/14

Apparently the attorneys in North Carolina are proposing legislation that would prohibit anyone except attorneys and lenders from closing loans in the state. I guess it is really no surprise that the National Notary Association is opposing the move. They claim that Georgia, an attorney-only state, has one of the highest rates of mortgage fraud in the country. And, attorney-only closings will only create a monopoly that will cost consumers more.


"North Carolina lawyers are proposing the type of monopoly that has driven up costs time and time again," Reiniger said. "Eliminating competition is a terrible move that will make lawyers more money at homeowners' expense."

But, I referred to a case in previous post, A Simple Transaction, that pointed out that even in home equity lines of credit, an attorney's representation can prevent problems for the homeowner.

Here is an excerpt from Boniour v. Citibank, N.A., 2006 N.Y. Slip Op 26525 (N.Y. Misc. 2006):


Apparently someone has taken the advice of Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part II and "kill(ed) all the lawyers." Nowhere in this transaction does there appear to be the participation of any lawyers... At one time a real estate transaction consisted of a deed, a note and a mortgage; took about fifteen minutes to complete; and had the participation of an attorney for all parties to the transaction. The last time the Court checked, we were still in the City of New York where people do not even verify the score of the Yankee game without consulting counsel, and yet, lawyers have effectively been eliminated from real estate closings involving the refinance of mortgages and secondary loans, including home equity lines of credit. One could conclude therefore that these transactions have no legal implications. That, however, would be far from the truth. The borrowing of money secured by a mortgage is often a complex transaction with serious legal implications for all of the parties involved, especially the borrowers who are pledging their home as security.

It is a great case. The judge's opinion was very well written and he made a great point - even the simple transactions have very complex legal implications. Homeowners can't be expected to understand all of the aspects of the closing and they are often surprised by the terms they have agreed to.

Obviously, given a choice, most consumers are going to elect to proceed with a less expensive notary closing their loan than an attorney. Heck! Given the choice, most wouldn't purchase title insurance either. They have been led to believe that the paperwork is all standard and signing it is just a formality to get the loan. They place too much trust in their Realtors or loan officers.

Yes, even in an attorney state, mortgage fraud can occur. Even an attorney would not be able to detect some of the criminal activity that goes on behind the scenes. However, there are many instances where a homeowner would definitely be best served by an attorney's representation.

In an article in the Pocono Record, Home buyers testify against Peterson, I was shocked to learn that the settlement agent was accused of falsifying documents that resulted in a second mortgage that the homeowner was unaware of.


Yvette Owens of Blakeslee, who bought her home in 2001, testified she was saddled with an undisclosed second mortgage — to help cover the down payment to the primary lender.

Owens said she didn't learn about the second mortgage until after 9/11, when she quit her New York job after witnessing the trauma of the twin towers' collapse. Owens said she asked the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency for temporary mortgage assistance, and the agency told her it couldn't help since she had two mortgages on the house.

"I said I didn't have a clue of it," Owens said.

Owens contends she never signed for the second mortgage, but did sign a paper on which the mortgage information — including the title "second mortgage" — was filled in later.

"I signed a piece of paper that never said anything about a second mortgage," she testified. "It was just a piece of paper."

I'm sure most people think that they would never sign anything that wasn't filled in. However, in the flurry of paperwork that gets pushed across the table, I could see some innocuous looking document getting shuffled in that could be changed after the closing. All the notary has to do is say "please sign here." After signing 30 other documents, borrowers tend to stop asking questions and do as they are instructed.

I do agree, completely, that every real estate transaction is more complex than borrower's are led to believe. They need better representation. An attorney is held to a much higher standard than a notary and the consequences are much more drastic for an attorney who shirks his responsibilities. After all, a notary has much less invested in becoming a notary public than an attorney has in obtaining his license to practice law.

When you look at the cost of requiring attorney-only closings, you can't just look at the front-end fees. You also have to consider the costs to consumers that are poorly represented when they have to fix the mess after the fact.

I don't mean to say that there aren't good notaries out there doing a great job. But even the best of them are not capable of providing the same level of representation that an attorney can provide. A notary can only notarize... they can't advise... and borrowers need more of the latter, whether they realize it or not.

Robert A. Franco

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Categories: Attorneys, North Carolina Legislation, Notaries Public

Source of Title Blog :: 13 comments ::

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



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