Bulletin: GA2021002

Date:
July 14, 2021
To:
All Georgia Issuing Offices
RE:
UNDERWRITING - Georgia Executive Order and Georgia Supreme Court Order

Dear Associates:

On June 30, 2021, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued an Executive Order 06.30.21.01, a copy of which is attached, that confirmed the Public Health State of Emergency declared by Executive Order 03.14.20.01 has ended, but simultaneously issued Executive Order 06.30.21.02, a copy of which is attached, that provided for certain regulatory suspensions during the state of emergency declared for Continued COVID-19 Economic Recovery (“New Order”). Part of the regulatory suspensions includes the suspension of the purported requirement that the execution of documents must occur in the physical presence of a notary and witness, provided certain requirements are met. The New Order continues the use of real-time audio-visual communication technology in lieu of parties personally appearing before a notary and unofficial witness through July 30, 2021, unless extended by subsequent order.

Additionally, by Order on June 30, 2021, a copy of which is attached, the state Supreme Court extended the March 27, 2020, Supreme Court Order that suspended any requirement that the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct may impose upon lawyers to be physically present in order to participate and supervise the closing of a real estate transaction through December 31, 2021. This effectively allows remote closings using real time audio video technology to be ethically permitted until that time based upon the March 27, 2020, Supreme Court Order.

Stewart is committed to our partners by providing further guidelines to allow agents to continue closing and insuring transactions. In the interest of providing our agents the tools necessary to provide service to their customers, we are implementing the following procedures, outlined below, which are EFFECTIVE UNTIL either the New Order or the aforementioned Georgia Supreme Court order expires or is otherwise modified or terminated. Stewart agents may use real-time audio-visual communication technology to facilitate the attestation requirements for a notary public and witness consistent with the New Order and the guidelines set forth herein.

To facilitate the use of audio-visual notary feature set forth in the attached New Order, the audio-visual technology must:

  • Provide for the audio/video viewing of the entire notarial transaction; and
  • Provide for secure transmission of the Non-public personal information.

Conditions for Notary Process:

  • Notary public, unofficial witness and signer via technology platform must have face to face interactive (live) exchange of communication;
  • Notary public must verify signer's identification via a video comparison to signer’s face;
  • Two forms of identification must be provided to the notary public, one of which must be a Driver’s License or other government issued identification;
  • Signer then must sign on camera for notary public and unofficial witness to witness;
  • Signer then sends to the closing attorney and notary on the same day the documents were executed the: (i) wet signature pages for the notary public to apply notary’s signature and notarial seal and for unofficial witness to execute and (ii) documents signed at the closing;
  • Notary and closing attorney shall maintain a copy of the video if required by lender and provide to Company upon request, or alternatively if no copy of the video was required to be maintained by lender and was otherwise not maintained the closing attorney shall maintain a copy of the identifications presented with the closing file;
  • The Notary Public must be a licensed Georgia notary and must be physically located in Georgia while performing the notarial act; and
  • Upon receipt of the original documents and identification, closing attorney submits to the clerk the recordables.

Additional Underwriting requirements:

  • Parties, including lender, must authorize in writing the use of the video notary process for the execution of documents;
  • No change is allowed to the attestation forms required under Georgia law for certain documents to be recorded including, but not limited to a deed and deed to secure debt;
  • Notary Public and unofficial witness both must be either an approved Georgia Stewart agent who is licensed to practice law in the state or Georgia or an employee of an approved Georgia agent who is licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia absent underwriter approval;
  • The approval of the audio-visual feature is limited to policy amount up to $1,000,000.00 and is limited to buy-sale transactions, purchase money Deeds to Secure Debt, refinances, and cash out refinances. Policies to be issued in excess of $1,000,000.00 or that are not for one of the aforementioned types of transactions will be considered but require approval of underwriting counsel;
  • To the extent Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct may require a Georgia attorney to be physically present at the closing of a real estate transaction and in close proximity to the parties to the transaction, a Georgia licensed attorney must participate in and supervise the closing of the real estate transaction by way of the real-time audio-visual communication technology consistent with the recent order from the Georgia Supreme Court, a copy of which is attached hereto, ethically permitting a lawyer to participate in and supervise the closing of a real estate transaction by way of video conference;
  • Notary public and closing attorney both must sign a certificate in form satisfactory to company confirming compliance;
  • Signer must be located in Georgia at time of signing and must sign a certificate in form satisfactory to company that he/she was located in Georgia at the time of signing; and
  • Unofficial witness must be located in Georgia at time he/she witnesses the execution of the document.

Suggestions for Audio/Video Conferencing Technology:

The New Order does not identify technology which would satisfy the audio/video requirements of the order. As a convenience to our agents and to aid your search in locating a service provider, we’ve listed some providers which offer audio/video conferencing and the ability to record such conference:

Microsoft Teams: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/record-a-meeting-in-teams-34dfbe7f-b07d- 4a27-b4c6-de62f1348c24

Go To Meeting: https://www.gotomeeting.com/features/online-meeting-recording 
Cisco Webex: https://help.webex.com/en-us/nzpa89j/Manage-Cisco-Webex-Meetings-Recordings

Closing and Notary Certificate
Signer’s Certificate
Governor’s Executive Order 06.30.21.01
Governor’s Executive Order 06.30.21.02
GA Supreme Court Order dated June 30, 2021

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:
GA2020005 UNDERWRITING - Georgia Executive Order and Georgia Supreme Court Order
Related Bulletins:
None
Underwriting Manual:
None
Exceptions Manual:
None
Forms:
None