Bulletin: MA2021002

Date:
June 10, 2021
To:
All Massachusetts Issuing Offices
RE:
UNDERWRITING - Termination of COVID-19 State of Emergency; Impact on Virtual Notarization and Timeline for Response to Municipal Options to Purchase under Chapters 61, 61A and 61B

Dear Associates:

On May 17, 2021, Governor Baker announced that the State of Emergency declared on March 10, 2020, will terminate on June 15, 2021. On May 28, 2021, the Governor issued COVID-19 Order No. 69 confirming the termination of the State of Emergency.

During the State of Emergency, Massachusetts attorneys and paralegals were authorized to take acknowledgements using so-called virtual notarization or remote ink notarization (“RIN”) under Chapter 71 of the Acts of 2020. The Act contains a provision stating that it would be repealed 3 business days after the termination of the state of emergency. Therefore, as of June 18, 2021, any acknowledgement in Massachusetts must be performed in person, as required by M.G.L. c. 222 §1, which defines an “acknowledgement” as “a notarial act in which an individual, at a single time and place appears, in person, before a notary public ….”

In response to Chapter 71 of the Acts of 2020, Stewart issued Bulletin MA2020004 outlining the requirements for virtual acknowledgements in Massachusetts for Stewart policy-issuing agents. Stewart also issued Bulletin MA2020006 to clarify the permissible methods of notarization for Massachusetts acknowledgements.

Because of the termination of the state of emergency, Bulletin MA2020004 is rescinded effective June 18, 2021. Further, as Chapter 71 of the Acts of 2020 will be repealed on June 18, 2021, RIN will no longer be an acceptable method of notarization on or after June 18, 2021, as set forth in Bulletin MA2020006. As a reminder, so-called “Remote Online Notarization” or “RON” is not authorized in Massachusetts, and Stewart’s National Bulletin SLS2020004 does not apply to Massachusetts transactions.

The termination of the State of Emergency also impacts properties taxed under Chapter 61, 61A and 61B. On April 3, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19.” The Act is designated as Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 and includes a provision suspending the period of time for municipalities to respond to a notice of intent to sell for, or convert to, residential, industrial or commercial use any property which is taxed under Chapters 61, 61A or 61B. In response, Stewart issued Bulletin MA2020002.

The Act continues to be in effect for a period of 90 days after the termination of the State of Emergency. As a result, Bulletin MA2020002 will expire effective September 13, 2021.

While Bulletin MA2020002 will expire on September 13, 2021, keep in mind that you may not rely on the expiration of the 120-day period for a municipality to respond to a notice of intent to sell or convert if such expiration would occur after March 10, 2020. Therefore, you may not insure properties which are currently taxed under Chapters 61, 61A or 61B (or have been taxed under one of those Chapters within the preceding one-year period) if the notice of intent to sell or convert was sent to the municipality between November 10, 2019 (120 days prior to the State of Emergency) and September 13, 2021, unless a notice of non-exercise of the option by the municipality has been recorded at the Registry of Deeds, or the 120-day time period, as extended by the Act, has expired as set forth below.

If the notice was sent on or after November 10, 2019, but prior to March 10, 2020, you must calculate the number of days left in the 120-day period and add those days to September 13, 2021. As an example, if the notice was sent on December 18, 2019, the new deadline for the municipality to respond would be October 21, 2021, calculated as follows: as of March 10, 2020, the remaining time period for the municipality to respond would have been 38 days; adding 38 days to September 13, 2021 results in a new date of October 21, 2021.

If the notice was sent during the State of Emergency and prior to the expiration of Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 (i.e., March 10, 2020 through September 13, 2021), the 120-day period for the municipality to respond will start running on September 13, 2021.

If you have any questions relating to this or other bulletins, please contact your Massachusetts Underwriting team at massuwing@stewart.com or at 1-800-628-2988.

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:
MA2020004 UNDERWRITING - Virtual Notarization
Related Bulletins:
MA2020002 UNDERWRITING - Municipal Options to Purchase under Chapters 61, 61A and 61B
 
MA2020006 UNDERWRITING - Permissible Methods of Notarization for Massachusetts Transactions
 
SLS2020004 UNDERWRITING - Remote Online Notarization
Underwriting Manual:
None
Exceptions Manual:
None
Forms:
None