Real Estate Law

Don’t Believe Those Online e-Notarize Ads

Webcam Nptary Ad

In Minnesota and other states, electronic notarization (e-Notarization) is moving fast. But DO NOT BELIEVE THE ADS. It is complicated. Each state has its own laws, rules, and especially its own legal terminology.

In Minnesota, a notary may perform electronic notarial acts when the affiant (person signing and swearing to a true statement) physically appears before the approved e-notary and the notary is physically in the State of Minnesota at that time. The notary must have specifically applied for and been approved by the state to use that method. The e-Notarization includes all the elements of a paper document notarization except the notary uses a digital signature and seal to the document (a graphic image) instead of an ink stamp. NO webcams!

Many people confuse e-Notarization with I will refer to as webcam notarization, believing they are the same. Webcam notarization involves live, real time audio-visual technology on the Internet, and (depending on state law) the person signing a document or electronic record appears before a notary public from a different physical location. The requirement of the “presence” of a signer is satisfied via the live audio/video connection not physical location. Each state has its own rules here, and in some cases the notary must maintain a physical audio/video of the webcam notary for a period of years. The audio/video is property of the notary and NOT that of the company the notary may work for.

Documents notarized in states allowing webcams ARE legal and recordable in Minnesota. They just can’t be performed in Minnesota. And remember, with a few exceptions, those who are notarizing real estate documents in Minnesota, such as deeds and mortgages require a Closing Agent License in addition to their e-notary commission, and there is a potential $10,000 fine per transaction for notarizing such documents without the license.

CFPB Loses Case Over RESPA

A lawsuit brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau against a Louisville law firm was dismissed on Friday.

In a summary judgment ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky found that law firm Borders & Borders PLC followed the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) while operating title insurance agencies from 2006 to 2011, according to a NEWS release.

Morgan Ward, a partner with Stites & Harbison PLLC and one of the attorneys who defended Borders & Borders, said: “The CFPB was overreaching, and it’s unfair to target a small firm as part of a regulatory agenda.”

The case “appears to be the CFPB’s first loss on the merits at the federal trial court level,” according to the release.

The CFPB sued Borders & Borders in 2013 after the firm refused to agree with a punitive consent decree levied by the agency. The CFPB alleged that the firm and principals Harry Borders, John Borders Jr. and J. David Borders accepted kickbacks in exchange for referrals of real-estate closing services.

Borders & Borders operated nine title insurance agencies as joint ventures with local real estate and mortgage brokerage companies, according to the lawsuit, as was allowed under RESPA’s safe harbor for affiliated business arrangements. Those companies referred home buyers to Borders & Borders for settlement services, and the firm then would have the title insurance issued by one of the joint ventures.

The profits from the arrangement were split among the title insurance agencies’ owners — Borders & Borders, its principals and the referring company, according to the lawsuit.

Morgan Ward, a partner with Stites & Harbison PLLC and one of the attorneys who defended Borders & Borders, said that under RESPA, it is illegal to pay for referrals unless the law firm and mortgage broker share owners, as was the case with Borders & Borders. Consumers also must be aware of and agree with the arrangement.

Ward said the CFPB viewed RESPA’s safe harbor for affiliated business arrangements as a loophole and decided to try to close it through the courts instead of going to Congress to change the law.

“This really was a David versus Goliath kind of case,” Ward said. The CFPB “tried to send a chilling effect to the marketplace by punishing a family-owned local law firm.”

CFPB Finalizes Updates to “Know Before You Owe” Mortgage Disclosure

Press Release
July 7, 2017

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today finalized updates to its “Know Before You Owe” mortgage disclosure rule with amendments that are intended to formalize guidance in the rule, and provide greater clarity and certainty. The changes will facilitate implementation of the Know Before You Owe rule by the mortgage industry. The CFPB is also releasing a limited follow-up proposal to address an additional implementation issue.

“A mortgage is one of the largest financial decisions a consumer will ever make, and CFPB’s rules help ensure consumers have the easy-to-understand information they need before making a decision that will significantly impact their financial lives,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Our updates will clarify parts of our mortgage disclosure rule to make for a smoother implementation process for lenders and consumers.”

The Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule took effect Oct. 3, 2015. The CFPB’s rule created new, streamlined forms that consumers receive when applying for and closing on a mortgage. In addition to clarifications and technical corrections, the amendments that the Bureau is finalizing today address a handful of other issues within the rule, including:

Tolerances for the total of payments: Before the Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule, the total of payments disclosure was determined using the finance charge as part of the calculation. The Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule changed the total of payments calculation so that it did not make specific use of the finance charge. The Bureau is now finalizing updates to include tolerance provisions for the total of payments that parallel the tolerances for the finance charge and disclosures affected by the finance charge.

Housing assistance lending: The Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule gave a partial exemption from disclosure requirements to certain housing assistance loans, which are originated primarily by housing finance agencies. The Bureau’s update, as finalized, promotes housing assistance lending by clarifying that recording fees and transfer taxes may be charged in connection with those transactions without losing eligibility for the partial exemption. The update also excludes recording fees and transfer taxes from the exemption’s limits on costs. Through the update, more housing assistance loans will qualify for the partial exemption, which should encourage these loans.

Cooperatives: The Bureau is finalizing updates to extend the rule’s coverage to include all cooperative units. Currently, the rule only covers transactions secured by real property, as defined under state law. Cooperatives are sometimes treated as personal property under state law and sometimes as real property. By including all cooperatives in the rule, the Bureau is simplifying compliance and ensuring that more consumers benefit from the rule.

Privacy and sharing of information: The Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule requires creditors to provide certain mortgage disclosures to the consumer. The Bureau has received many questions about sharing the disclosures provided to consumers with third parties to the transaction, including the seller and real estate brokers. The Bureau understands that it is usual, accepted, and appropriate for creditors and settlement agents to provide a Closing Disclosure to consumers, sellers, and their real estate brokers or other agents. The Bureau is finalizing additional commentary to clarify how a creditor may provide separate disclosure forms to the consumer and the seller.

The finalized amendments are available at:
http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201707_cfpb_Final-Rule_Amendments-to-Federal-Mortgage-Disclosure-Requirements_TILA.pdf

In addition to the final rule, the CFPB is issuing a proposal addressing when a creditor may use a Closing Disclosure, instead of a Loan Estimate, to determine if an estimated closing cost was disclosed in good faith and within tolerance. Comments are due 60 days after the proposal’s publication in the Federal Register and will be weighed carefully before a final regulation is issued.

The proposal is available at:
http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201707_cfpb_Proposed-Rule_Amendments-to-Federal-Mortgage-Disclosure-Requirements_TILA.pdf

Title Agent Charged with Negligence and Compensatory Damages

A Connecticut title agent was held liable for $77,500 that was paid by a Title Underwriter to clear title to property it insured, as well as more than $20,000 in compensatory damages for fees and expenses incurred in negotiating the settlement. The case showcased liability by the agent for a negligent title search, and breach of duty to the underwriter.

Read the case here.

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.

 

CFPB Updates Use of Service Providers

On October 31st, the CFPB issued updates to lenders  on use of Service Providers. This appears to allow a bit more flexibility for the lender to handle day to day affairs with its Servie Providers and is good news for title companies, abstracting and closing companies.  The update states:

“The Bureau is reissuing its guidance on service providers, formerly titled CFPB Bulletin 2012-03, Service Providers to clarify that the depth and formality of the risk management program for service providers may vary depending upon the service being performed—its size, scope, complexity, importance and potential for consumer harm—and the performance of the service provider in carrying out its activities in compliance with Federal consumer financial laws and regulations. This amendment is needed to clarify that supervised entities have flexibility and to allow appropriate risk management.”

Lenders continue to be advised to:

take steps to review Service Providers and should include, but are not limited to:

  • Conducting thorough due diligence to verify that the service provider understands and is capable of complying with Federal consumer financial law;
  • Requesting and reviewing the service provider’s policies, procedures, internal controls, and training materials to ensure that the service provider conducts appropriate training and oversight of employees or agents that have consumer contact or compliance responsibilities;
  • Including in the contract with the service provider clear expectations about compliance, as well as appropriate and enforceable consequences for violating any compliance-related responsibilities, including engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices;
  • Establishing internal controls and on-going monitoring to determine whether the service provider is complying with Federal consumer financial law; and
  • Taking prompt action to address fully any problems identified through the monitoring process, including terminating the relationship where appropriate.

For more information pertaining to the responsibilities of a supervised bank or nonbank that has business arrangements with service providers, please review the CFPB’s Supervision and Examination Manual: Compliance Management Review and Unfair, Deceptive, and Abusive Acts or Practices.[3]

 

 

 

Air Right Sales Soar To New Heights

You have never seen it all in real estate, as it is a constantly morphing industry.  I just ran across an article in the New York Times on the sale of Air Rights where a developer paid $40 million to a church for its air rights in order to build a 51 story building in New York.

One real estate broker commented

“They’re building what I call a Viagra building, a tall slender tower with great views at a great location.   … What difference does it make if you pay $100 more per square foot if you’re selling condos for over $4,000 per square foot?  But there aren’t many sites where you can do this.”

Read the full New York Times article

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.

Judge Rules OK to Saw off Half a Garage if on your Property

beseman_garage-630x471

This article reminds us that  “Actual Knowledge of a Problem requires the buyer to take care of the problem!” It also let’s a title company off the hook for claims.

From Minnesota Public Radio Blog.

A judge in Grand Rapids, Minn., has ruled that if someone else’s garage sits partially on your property, it’s OK to saw it in half.

The ruling comes in the case against Roger Weber of Nashwauk who sawed Mark Besemann’s garage in half in April 2013. Besemann had purchased the house from Weber’s sister, unaware that a family feud was raging over the location of the garage.

Besemann sued Weber but Judge Lois Lang has ruled that Weber had a legal right to remove the portion of the garage that sat on his property, Forum News Service reports.

The house Besemann purchased had been owned and lived in for years by Roger Weber’s father, Robert Weber. But after the elder Weber died in 2012, and the home passed to the sister, Roger Weber claimed that half of what had been his father’s garage was in fact built on property the younger Weber now owns.

Sometime between April 22 and April 27, 2013, Roger Weber sawed the garage in half and removed the portion he claimed was on his property.

Besemann discovered the damage April 27, just days after closing on the property, and eventually filed a civil suit asking for $20,000 in damages for the ruined garage and another $20,000 in punitive damages from Weber.

Besemann also has to pay Weber’s legal costs.

“I’m obviously being railroaded by a small group of ‘public servants’ with their own agendas,” Besemann tells Forum. “(He) has destroyed my garage and rendered the house unlivable by damaging the septic system. What’s next? He now has an open ticket out there to do what he wants so it’s anybody’s guess. I have no choice but to keep fighting what now appears to be a losing battle.”

The dispute arose during Weber’s campaign as the endorsed Republican for the District 06 seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He lost.

Mortgage Note NOT Assigned to Foreclosing Lender?! OOOPS -It’s all in the Details

Interesting case out of Alabama.  See more detail.

Her mortgage had been foreclosed, but the mortgagor challenged the foreclosure by appeal, saying the lender who foreclosed had no legal interest because the note was not properly assigned. The appeal court agreed and the foreclosure sale has been  reversed and remanded to the trial court.

Moral of the story: Dot your I’s and cross your T’s when it comes to assignment of mortgage notes.

Info On Home Closing

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