BY RICHARD GILIOTTI
BY RICHARD GILIOTTI
If you’ll be closing on a house or commercial structure this fall, the stack of papers your attorney will ask you to sign may be a little taller.
Not to worry, though. The additional paperwork is designed to protect consumers and bring additional transparency to an important aspect of land transfers in New York — title insurance.
Under a new state insurance law that went into effect late last month, independent title insurance agents and insurance companies are now required to secure a license to continue practicing in New York. Forty-seven other states have similar laws in place.
Title insurance safeguards your biggest investment. It protects buyers by scrutinizing public records to determine that the seller truly owns the property, that the property lines are correct and that there are no other long-lost claims on the parcel or structure.
The purchase of title insurance is a one-time fee during a real estate transaction. Professional land title insurance agents are necessary to maintain the integrity of the public land records system and to uphold the confidence of consumers and their attorneys, as well as regulators and the financial community.
Our organization — the New York State Land Title Association — supports the new requirements on commercial and residential real estate transactions. They will protect homebuyers from misleading or dishonest practices, and they will help all parties avoid inadvertent consequences in a process that is complex and confusing to the layperson. State Land Title Association leaders and members worked with the state Department of Financial Services to shape the law, which will affect 300 member-companies, 1,800 agents and 10,000 employees, as well as nonmembers throughout the state.
According to state DFS, which will distribute licenses and administer the regulations, any title insurance agent, “firm, association or corporation acting as a title insurance agent of any authorized title insurance corporation will be required to seek and secure a license.”
According to DFS, the state waives the pre-licensing education and examination requirement for attorneys who are in good standing, or for agents who are able to show (and document) they have worked five consecutive years in the profession. The latter must still engage DFS to complete required forms. The waiver expires in September 2015, according to DFS.
The law went into effect Sept. 29, but the state has offered a grace period until Jan. 1, 2015, for agents and companies to apply for the license. Those who meet the deadline may continue working as title insurance agents until the superintendent of financial services has rendered a determination — either to issue the license or reject the application. Those who miss the deadline must cease acting as an agent until the application process is complete and the DFS superintendent has issued a license.
To the buyer or seller of real estate, the closing process will appear seamless, as the attorneys and agents will manage the details and filings. Buyers can be reassured that the additional regulations will better protect them from a catastrophic financial loss in the event of an unanticipated legal claim stemming from fraud or misrepresentation, or even a boundary dispute.
As New York State Land Title Association members prepare for new state regulations, recent federal regulations also will serve to bolster consumer confidence and industry oversight. The federal government has announced regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which oversees markets for consumer financial products and services, including mortgage applications, credit card company practices and a variety of other consumer financial products.
Specifically, the bureau is extending its oversight into real estate finance. In August 2015, the Truth in Lending Act and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act will go into effect, introducing numerous significant changes into the home closing process and affecting business practices established more than 30 years ago.
Confidence and competence are keys to every real estate transaction. While overregulation can stifle business growth, New York’s enhanced statutory and regulatory environment will actually support economic activity and investment across the state’s real estate community by setting higher industry and professional standards.
Richard Giliotti is president and CEO of the Judicial Title Insurance Agency LLC in Rye Brook and serves on the New York State Land Title Association executive committee. He can be reached at 914- 381-6700, ext. 233.