Bulletin: MD2018004

Date:
December 31, 2018
To:
All Maryland Issuing Offices
RE:
UNDERWRITING - Address Confidentiality Program - Shielding Real Property Records - Effective January 1, 2019

Dear Associates:

As of January 1, 2019, Maryland House Bill 633 becomes effective. The Bill addresses an address confidentiality program for victims of domestic violence. Participants must be enrolled with the Maryland Secretary of State in the program to qualify for address shielding. Below is an outline of the bill along with information needed in order to record documents for an ACP participant and how to access shielded documents for the purposes of examining title.

House Bill 633: Address Confidentiality Program - Shielding Real Property Records

Takes Effect January 1, 2019

Generally, the bill broadens the stated purpose of the ACP to include:

(1) enabling private entities to accept an ACP (Address Confidentiality Program) participant’s alternate address 

(2) enabling a participant to use an address designated by the Office of the Secretary of State as a substitute address

Requests to Access Shielded Documents

On request, the Secretary of State may authorize the disclosure of shielded real property records for the purpose of performing a bona fide title examination. Any request must include specified information. Within two business days, the Secretary of State must provide a written response approving or denying the request. The Secretary of State may only approve the request if the Secretary of State confirms that the property subject to the title examination is the property identified in the real property ACP notice of the program participant. If the property belongs to an individual who is no longer an ACP participant, the Secretary of State must give written notice to the clerk of the appropriate circuit court and the State Archives, and the clerk and the State Archives must cease shielding all real property records relating to the property.

Prohibition Against Obtaining and Disclosing ACP Participant Information

A person may not knowingly and intentionally obtain an ACP participant’s actual address or phone number from the Secretary of State, the clerk of a circuit court, or any agency without authorization. A person may not knowingly and intentionally seek and obtain an ACP participant’s actual address or telephone number from any other person if, at the time of obtaining the information, the person has specific knowledge that the actual address or telephone number belongs to an ACP participant. The bill expands the prohibition against an employee of the Secretary of State or other agency knowingly and intentionally disclosing an ACP participant’s actual address or phone number to cover any person. The bill establishes procedures for notifying a person that an individual is an ACP participant. It also states that a person may not knowingly disclose a participant’s name, home address, work address, or school address unless the person to whom the address is disclosed also lives, works, or goes to school at the disclosed address or the participant has provided written consent to the disclosure. The person to whom written consent is provided (1) may require the consent to be in a particular form and (2) must limit any disclosure to only those necessary for the purpose for which the consent is provided. 

Service of Process: Notwithstanding any other provision of law, service of process on an individual by a person or an agency that has received “notice” that the individual is an ACP participant must be made in person on the participant, or by mail on the Secretary of State. Generally, “notice” means receipt of written notification on a form prescribed by the Secretary of State identifying an individual as an ACP participant. If service by publication is required, service is valid if the publication omits the name of the ACP participant, and the Secretary of State has been served by mail.

Request to Use Substitute Address

When an ACP participant presents the address designated by the Secretary of State to any person, that address must be accepted as the address of the participant. A person may not require an ACP participant to submit any address that could be used to physically locate the participant either (1) as a substitute or in addition to the designated address or (2) as a condition of receiving a service or benefit, unless the service or benefit would be impossible to provide without the participant’s physical location.

A bank, a credit union, or any other financial institution defined under specified provisions of the Financial Institutions Article may require a request made by an ACP participant to be in writing and on a form prescribed by the Secretary of State identifying an individual as a program participant.

Recordation of Instruments for Address Confidentiality Program Participants

Generally, an ACP participant who acquires an ownership interest in the real property while participating in the program may request the shielding of real property records concerning the property.

Submitting a Request to Shield Documents

To request the shielding of real property records, an ACP participant or any agent of a participant must submit to the clerk of the circuit court and the appropriate county finance office a specified real property ACP notice, the deed or other instrument to be recorded, and the standard intake sheet required under Title 3 of the Real Property Article. If an ACP participant intends to request the shielding of real property records, the participant may not submit any instrument for recordation electronically. A separate notice is required for each property in which the ACP participant acquires an ownership interest. 

The ACP participant must send a copy of the real property ACP notice to the Secretary of State. The clerk of the circuit court must provide a copy of any notice received under the bill to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation and the State Archives. Generally, a real property ACP notice applies to the instrument submitted for recordation at the same time as the notice and any other instrument concerning the property identified in the real property ACP notice that is subsequently presented for recordation during the time that the ACP participant holds a record interest in the property and is an ACP participant. The bill specifies that a real property ACP notice is not a public record.

Prohibition Against Disclosure by a Clerk of the Circuit Court

Generally, a clerk of the circuit court and any State or local agency that receives a real property ACP notice under the bill may not disclose the ACP participant’s identity information in conjunction with the property identified. However, a program participant’s identity information may be disclosed in conjunction with a property identified in a real property ACP notice if (1) the ACP participant consents to the disclosure for a specific purpose identified in a writing acknowledged by the program participant; (2) the information is subject to disclosure under a court order; or (3) the Secretary of State authorizes the disclosure for the purpose of performing a bona fide title examination.

The prohibition against disclosure continues until (1) the program participant consents to the termination of the real property ACP notice in a writing acknowledged by the ACP participant; (2) the real property ACP notice is terminated in accordance with a court order; (3) the participant no longer holds a record interest in the property; or (4) the Secretary of State gives written notice to the clerk of the circuit court that the individual named in the notice is no longer an ACP participant.

Requirement to Establish Uniform Statewide Procedures

All State and local agencies must establish uniform procedures for maintaining records, including tax, utility, and zoning records, in accordance with the bill. The clerks of the circuit courts, in conjunction with the Administrative Office of the Courts, must establish uniform statewide procedures for recording deeds and other instruments to comply with the bill. The procedures must, at a minimum, include provisions for shielding recorded instruments that contain an ACP participant’s actual address or identity information, providing notice to the public of the existence of a shielded instrument, and instructions for requesting access to the shielded instrument.

Cancellation of Participation

If an individual has requested the shielding of property records under the bill, the Secretary of State must send written notice to the clerk of the appropriate circuit court within 30 days after the individual ceases to be an ACP participant. 

If you have any questions relating to this or other bulletins, please contact a Stewart Title Guaranty Company underwriter.

For on-line viewing of this and other bulletins, please log onto www.vuwriter.com.

THIS BULLETIN IS FURNISHED TO INFORM YOU OF CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS. AS A REMINDER, YOU ARE CHARGED WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONTENT ON VIRTUAL UNDERWRITER  AS IT EXISTS FROM TIME TO TIME AS IT APPLIES TO YOU, AS WELL AS ANY OTHER INSTRUCTIONS. OUR UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS DO NOT AUTHORIZE OUR ISSUING AGENTS TO ENGAGE IN SETTLEMENTS OR CLOSINGS ON BEHALF OF STEWART TITLE GUARANTY COMPANY. THIS BULLETIN IS NOT INTENDED TO DIRECT YOUR ESCROW OR SETTLEMENT PRACTICES OR TO CHANGE PROVISIONS OF APPLICABLE UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS. CONFIDENTIAL, PROPRIETARY, OR NONPUBLIC PERSONAL INFORMATION SHOULD NEVER BE SHARED OR DISSEMINATED EXCEPT AS ALLOWED BY LAW. IF APPLICABLE STATE LAW OR REGULATION IMPOSES ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS, YOU SHOULD CONTINUE TO COMPLY WITH THOSE REQUIREMENTS.

References

Bulletins Replaced:
None
Related Bulletins:
None
Underwriting Manual:
None
Exceptions Manual:
None
Forms:
None