Licensing

MN Dept Commerce New E-license Website

The Minnesota Department of Commerce  has a new e-license Website regarding Closing Agent Licenses, look here for info:  https://mn.gov/elicense/a-z/?id=1083231369#/list/appId//filterType//filterValue//page/1/sort//order/

For the Abstracter Licensing the new  e-license link is: https://mn.gov/elicense/a-z/#/list/appId/0/filterType/Subject/filterValue/Abstracters/page/1/sort//order/

HUD REACHES SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS COMPANIES RE: VIOLATING FAIR HOUSING ACT

HUD Press Release
Thursday January 26, 2017

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced agreements with two insurance companies in Ohio and Florida settling allegations the companies violated the Fair Housing Act by denying insurance coverage to properties that contain “subsidized housing” and “low-income housing.”

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for providers of housing-related services or products, including insurance providers, to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status.

The agreements stemmed from a Secretary-Initiated complaint HUD filed after receiving reports the insurance companies’ policies and practices had a discriminatory effect because of race and national origin. Specifically, HUD’s complaint alleged that the companies refused to provide umbrella coverage, which provides additional liability coverage when an insured’s other primary policy limits have been reached, to properties containing subsidized or low-income housing.

Under the agreements, McGowan and Company will remove “subsidized” and “low-income” from its list of prohibited properties, spend $100,000 to affirmatively market its services and products to the affordable and low-income housing markets and provide fair housing training for management and staff that review and/or approve applications for insurance. Mack & Waltz will spend $10,000 to affirmatively promote its services in affordable and low-income housing markets, and provide fair housing training for its management and staff.

People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.

 

Bank requires few mortgage documents: Seems like housing deja vu

Excerpt from CNBC 6/9/16

 They were a hallmark of the U.S. housing crash: Mortgages that required little or even no documentation.

During the boom, they were called “stated income” loans, but advertised as “low-doc” or “no-doc” loans. When the damage was done, they were deemed “liar loans.” Both lenders and borrowers alike would write basically anything on the mortgage application to get the deal done. Now, nearly a decade after the financial crisis began, a new version of the stated income loan is making a comeback.

“Lite Doc.” That is what Quontic Bank, an FDIC-insured community lender in New York City is calling its product. It requires only verification of employment and two months worth of bank statements. For self-employed borrowers, it requires documentation of one year of profit and losses. The Lite Doc loans are five-year adjustable-rate mortgages with interest rates in the low- to mid-5 percent range, according to the bank. Thirty-year fixed-rate loans, which when fully documented can offer rates in the high-3 percent range, are not part of the offering.

Read full article here

Title Agent Could Spend Fifteen Years in Prison

Another sad tale for the title industry. A Jacksonville FL title agent has been charged with defrauding clients of nearly $400,000 while operating an unlicensed title agency.

The Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud arrested 41-year-old Kristine Ann Spahr, who is accused of illegally defrauding clients of nearly $400,000; illegally operating  Signature Title and Trust LLC;  and profiting from escrow monies belonging clients.

The investigation started in January, when the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud got a complaint about Spahr’s operations.  Investigators soon learned Spahr had forfeited her title agency to work for another title company, Grace Title, but she was allegedly still operating Signature Title without a license.

Spahr is accused of defrauding clients on at least seven separate occasions by keeping their real estate escrow funds and not giving clients the title insurance they paid for. Those funds exceed $391,000, according to investigators.  Spahr was booked in to the Nassau County Jail for a felony count of organized schemes to defraud and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

It has been a long time since I have seen information from Commerce on the Licensing requirements for Abstracters, and I was pleased to see their latest bulletin.  While I know there is no education requirement, the content is significant and requires a good working knowledge of the trade. For those who need assistance with the legalese in title searching the online Principles of Abstracting course can help.  In any case, here is the outline from the PSI bulletin.

ABSTRACTER EXAMINATION CANDIDATE INFORMATION BULLETIN

Legal description and elements of real property (10 items)

  1. Definitions and components of real property
  2. Methods of legal description
  3. Estates in real property
  4. Forms of ownership
  5. Transfer / alienation of real property
  6. Deeds
  7. Types
  8. Characteristics / elements

iii. Warranties

  1. Land use controls
  2. Public
  3. Private/Covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs)
  1. Condominium Law

Documents (15 items)

  1. Conveyance
  2. Recording
  3. Torrens
  4. Encumbrances
  5. Types and priorities of liens
  6. Easements
  7. Encroachments

Research and Compilation of Abstract (20 items)

  1. Indexes
  2. Search requirements and techniques
  3. Documents and Entries
  4. Legal description in abstract
  5. Searches (including judgments in favor of the U.S.)
  6. Certification

Licensing and Professional Conduct (5 items)

  1. Licensing requirements
  2. Prohibited conduct

 

MN Closer Licensing Course

I’ve had many questions on the MN Closer Pre-License Course, so here are some pointers:

Pointers

Pointers

  • the 8 hour class is available online 24/7 and you have 90 days to complete it.
  • You do not need to take all 8 hours in one sitting!  Just bookmark your place and return to it later.
  • there is a minimum amount of time that must be spent on each of the 12 sections, but there is no maximum time, so spend as long as you’d like to be sure you understand the material
  • if you don’t complete a section before the minimum required time and you log out , you will have to repeat that section
  • Each section has a quiz at the end. You must pass the quiz to move on
  • the final examination requires a proctor form (someone who says they saw you take the exam without assistance of any kind.)  The proctor cannot be a spouse, relative or boss.  A neighbor, friend or public librarian (there is no charge) works fine
  • the final exam is 90 questions and you need 75% to pass.  You may spend as long as you like on the exam (but you cannot leave your desk during the exam, so the proctor knows you have not used outside materials for any answers.)
  • If you fail the exam, not to worry. You can review the material (if you wish) but must retake the quizzes to retake the exam (no extra charge.)

Mobile Notaries Require Closing Agent License

The Minnesota Department of Commerce Enforcement Division is reminding mobile notaries who explain mortgage documents, notarize deeds, collect funds and handle other tasks incidental to closing, that they are required by Minnesota Law to obtain a Closing Agent License.  The closer licenses are licenses that expire June 30th  two years after they are issued.   The online course listed above, “Principles of Closing,” satisfies the state requirement for the license.

Due Diligence Required of ALL Closing Staff

We all use auxiliary help when times are busy.  Signing agents and temporary help.  But beware; are you giving “non-employees” dangerous access to personal information that you are responsible for?

The DOJ has issued a press release regarding  a temporary employee who’s job was simply copying loan documents. In that capacity, she  stole personal  information belonging to over 250 would-be home buyers and used that information to obtain fraudulent credit cards.

Use due diligence in the hiring and overseeing of all of your help and assure they are properly licensed.   Even non-employees require oversight in the title and closing business.

Department of Justice Press Release – Temporary Help Steals Information to Get Fraudulent Credit Cards        Read article here at the Department of Justice Website

Mobile Notaries – Do You Have the Required Minnesota Closer License

Minnesota is sending out Enforcement Notices to Mobile Notaries reminding them that under Minnesota Law, those who notarize deeds, mortgages, affidavits and other documents to assist a party in buying or selling real estate in Minnesota are required to have a Closer’s Licence from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

The primary Closer License Laws are MN Statute 507.45 and MN Statute 82.641

The Commerce Department is authorized to penalize those who are not compliant, so please be sure to obtain the proper license. More information about Closer Licensing can be found here on the Commerce Department Website.

Title Companies should also assure that any closing agents they use are duly licensed under the law.

Theft of Funds in a Title Agency? It happens.

I understand why Minnesota licenses its closers.  It is a big responsibility to handle the hundreds of thousands of dollars each month that go a closer’s hands.  It seems prudent to run those background checks, identify those trust accounts, etc. to secure the rights of the public and be able to follow those funds.

After all, it is a big temptation when times get tough.  I know people, “good people,” who have “borrowed” funds (illegally.)  I truly believe they thought they would just need a little help for a short time, to cover the rent or make payroll,  until things got better and then they would reimburse the account. It’s a sad story and a dangerous tale. But we all know the title business is a very seasonal business and it seems it is always feast or famine.  We are always looking to hire, or lay off.

On the other hand there are those who knowingly steal and think they can get away with it.

A title agent in Estero, FL is a recent example.  Here is an account from Insurance News

March 14–A former title insurance agent in Estero accused of siphoning more than $705,000 from her clients in 2010 faces theft and fraud charges.

Lana Kaye Dargai, of the 22000 block of Forest View Drive, was arrested March 7, accused of stealing escrow funds put aside for the purchase and sale of real estate in Estero and Bonita Springs in June and July of 2010, according to theFlorida Department of Financial Services.

The department’s Division of Agent and Agency Services and Division of Insurance Fraud investigated the case. Dargai was doing business under the name Global Title Co., which she owned.

The investigation also found:

–Global Title used escrow money to purchase cashier’s checks to pay its own monthly rent and its own property taxes.

–In one instance, $9,000 in escrow money was moved into a bank account for Dargai’s father.

–At least eight times, from August 2009 through June 2010, funds from the company’s escrow account held with Bank of Florida were transferred into Global Title’s operating account, held with the same bank.

Dargai faces up to 15 years in prison for first degree grand theft and fraud charges, and her title agent license has been revoked. Dargai’s case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office in Fort Myers.

“These cases are thoroughly investigated, which takes time. Also, the State Attorney’s Office had a forensic accountant going over all the facts and figures,” said Ashley Carr, a spokeswoman for the Department of Financial Services.

Dargai, she said, turned in her Global Title agency license in 2011. She made off with money from at least five clients.

Stewart Title Guaranty, the underwriter for the money, reported the fraud to the state.  “The clients weren’t even aware of any issues as Stewart Title covered the losses,” Carr said. “The clients are not out any money. The victim is Stewart Title.”  Florida Community Bank was among the claimants that Stewart paid.

 

Info On Home Closing

Home Closing 101: An Educational Initiative of the American Land Title Association