March 24, 2020

Please know that TLTA is continuing to work around the clock to address the unique business challenges you are facing and we are fully committed to helping you get through this unprecedented time.
 
Also, I strongly encourage you to use our COVID-19 webpage as your go-to resource. We are making constant updates in real time as this situation evolves, and it’s full of important information.
 
Here’s a quick recap of where we are on each of the top priorities TLTA is focused on right now.
 
Stay-at-home orders and title insurance designation as an essential business
Keeping your businesses running is our highest priority. Over the last week we reached out to local and state officials urging them to designate title insurance as an essential business in any orders issued. You can review the letter we sent to Governor Abbott, the letter we sent to the mayor of San Antonio, which is a good example of the letters we sent to mayors across the state, and this model letter we sent to county judges statewide. We are very pleased that a number of the stay-at-home orders issued over the last few days have included title insurance. Federal guidelines issued last week (see page 11) were also enormously helpful to that effort as they list our industry among the definition of essential financial institutions. That federal guidance has also been included in several of the orders we’ve seen come out this week, including Dallas County. You can find those federal guidelines on our webpage along with a constantly updated list of city and county orders . This guidance is also helpful in terms of county clerks continuing to service our industry. If you need help understanding your local order and how it applies, let us know.
 
RON-related challenges
We’ve heard from you loud and clear that one of your biggest challenges is the lack of lenders allowing RON transactions. This is a complex issue because the technology is new, there are still a limited number of vendors and more education is needed, but please know TLTA is working it on several fronts. We are urging our lender partners to fast-track adoption and to assist in getting the secondary market to expedite adoption. We are developing educational materials to help lenders, warehouse lenders, county clerks and the public understand how RON works and how it can be a vital tool during this crisis. Stay tuned for more updates on those efforts.  
 
TDI compliance concerns and relaxing of requirements
We have been working closely and directly with TDI to provide lenience on several requirements during this emergency, including two signatures on checks, electronic signatures,  escrow audit submission deadlines, licenses renewals, and more. TDI did issue information today about leniency on license renewals and continuing education requirements. We know that decisions on the remaining items are critical to you in determining how you structure your operations during this unique time, and we have shared that urgency with TDI. We hope and expect to receive guidance very soon and please rest assured, the minute we have it, we'll share it with you. 
 
County/district clerk closures and operational changes
We know that the ability to get data from your county clerk and record documents is critical to your ability to stay in business. To assist, we’ve compiled a list with the latest on the status of county clerk closures. So far, while many clerks are partially closed or closed to the public, all continue to find ways to service title agents. If you know of changes in the operations of county offices with which you work, please email updates to tlta@tlta.com. If you are looking for information on county operations outside of Texas, ALTA has produced this resource.
 
Best practices and safe closing protocols
Thank you for sharing your ideas and best practices regarding business continuity and safe closing protocols. We are so impressed with your ingenuity and creativity. While the volume of responses was too great to share every single idea, we put together a summary of best practices . REMINDER: During this time, be sure to stay up-to-date with operational obligations and necessities (e.g., renewing insurance policies, complying with reporting deadlines, etc.).
 
Status of TLTA educational programs, annual conference, and other scheduled events and meetings
Due to government restrictions, some of our meetings and events have been affected and will continue to be affected. We will update the status of our upcoming meetings and events on our COVID-19 webpage , under the section titled, What about TLTA meetings and events?
 
Other common questions we are receiving
 
Q: How do I find mobile notary services?
A: There are a number of companies that provide mobile notary services, five of which are TLTA associate members (search the TLTA Directory). We would also encourage you to check with your underwriters for those active in your area. Google searches can also be refined to pull those serving specific ZIP codes.
 
Q: Can I just use Skype, Zoom or FaceTime for RON transactions?  
A: No. The Texas Statute provides specific requirements for a proper RON transaction. Additionally, the national GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have their own requirements and approved vendors and platforms. As always, check with your underwriter when considering a nontraditional approach to closing in response to the current challenges. 

Q: Can we conduct home equity signings remotely?
A: The home equity signing requirements are constitutional and therefore cannot be waived. Please consult with your underwriter to see if they have suggestions on how to handle this challenge.
 
Thank you for continuing to share your feedback, sending us your questions, sharing your concerns, providing us with updates on local developments, and trusting us to be your advocate during this most challenging of times. Your resilience and can-do attitudes lift us up and strengthens our commitment to you. 
 
Here for you every step of the way,
 
Leslie Midgley, CAE
Executive Vice President and CEO
Texas Land Title Association