January 2011

Dear ,

Preparing for the upcoming legislative session and responding to events, including the November election, defined TLTA's December. TLTAPAC worked hard as we introduced several new members of the legislature to the Texas land title industry through the numerous fundraisers that took place before the December deadline. 

TLTA volunteers have been actively working with staff to draft the bills we hope to pass this session. The Texas Legislative Council, which is charged with officially drafting bills for members of the legislature, is already backed up with thousands of pieces of legislation. Despite indications that relatively fewer bills will pass this session due to political conflicts and big issues, there will still be many to contend with. TLTA will actively monitor these and will work to modify or halt the progress of bills which are not in the best interest of the title industry. TLTA staff and volunteers are already in discussions with related industry groups working to make their proposed legislation agreeable for the title industry and consumers. 

The TLTA Board has also met several times to evaluate and chart a course for the next steps in our response to the commissioner’s decision to deny rate relief. An inadequate rate and a tough real estate economy combined with the specter of the commissioner potentially adopting expensive solvency rules to implement H.B. 4338 passed in 2009 means that the stakes are high and TLTA is focused on working toward resolving these challenges facing our members.

You should be aware that the commissioner’s rate order, including the “2% Minerals Credit,” took effect on January 1. As adopted, the language is not clear relative to how the credit should be applied. We communicated this problem to the department and requested a delay in the implementation of the credit until everything is sorted out. The Commissioner responded with a letter denying a delay and offering agents the ability to postpone remitting the credit to consumers by a few weeks if interest was included. Please let us know how your implementation of the credit proceeds so that we may share your experiences with interested parties. The Commissioner's letter further clarified that the Department will view the language in the order to mean that a credit is to apply to the portion of the owner's policy premium which makes up the basic policy excluding from the calculation any endorsements.

On the federal front, we continue to await any news of a rule adoption by the Federal Reserve regarding potential changes to Reg. Z. As we have previously reported, there was a proposal to roll title fees into the APR. To date, the Fed has not acted on this part of their proposed rules. Also, we are continuing to monitor FHFA's potential adoption of a rule which would disallow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from backing loans with private transfer fee covenants attached to the property. TLTA submitted comments designed to bolster their proposal. 

The change in House leadership has resulted in some of TLTA's key friends from the Texas delegation gaining elevated positions on the House Financial Services Committee. Be sure and read Jim Hyland’s report below.

The success of the TLTAPAC has afforded us the opportunity to meet the many new legislators entering office for the 82nd Session. It's an impressive class of freshmen legislators and this sincere group is eager to work for Texas. It can be fun to joke about the political process, but in reality we are truly blessed to have so many statesmen in our legislature. Despite whatever headlines we may read and whatever hot and divisive topic develops, we Texans can rest assured that by and large we have a good group of earnest folks trying to do what's right by their constituents. Times are still tough, but we are fortunate to have a system in place to work through it as we seek solutions to improve our collective future. As we begin a new year, it is worth reflecting on this fact. 

Happy New Year!

Aaron Day


TLTA Receives Response on Minerals Credit Requests

TLTA recently received a response from TDI Commissioner Mike Geeslin to our letter seeking an implementation delay and guidance on how to apply the 2% minerals credit required in the 2008 Rate Hearing Order. Unfortunately, he did not grant a delayed effective date as we had requested, so the January 1 effective date stands. He does provide basic clarification on how the rate is applied. We recommend you read the letter in its entirety here. It contains information about compliance that your company needs to know now that the order is in effect.

In the letter, the Commissioner also cites his reasoning for why he believes the minerals credit is justified and states that he believes the 60-day period from the date of the order is sufficient to prepare for implementation. TLTA is continuing to work on and evaluate our options regarding this important matter and will provide you with regular updates. In the meantime, please contact Aaron Day if you have any questions.

TDI Releases 2010 Biennial Hearing Call

TLTA recently became aware that the Texas Department of Insurance has posted a Notice of Call for Issues Related to the 2010 Biennial Hearing, which you can view here.

According to Section 2703.203 of the Texas Insurance Code, the Commissioner is required to "hold a biennial public hearing not earlier than July 1 of each even-numbered year to consider adoption of premium rates..." 

The TLTA Board will be reviewing this and other matters soon. If you have any questions, please contact Aaron Day at the TLTA offices at 512.472.6593.

Stay in Compliance: Basic Manual Changes Reviewed

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
10:00 - 11:00 a.m. CST

The recent Rate Hearing Order issued by TDI went into effect January 1. This program will walk you through the highlights of the order, explaining the key elements of changes to rates and rules that will affect your day-to-day business. Be sure you and your team are up to date and in compliance by taking part in this important regulatory update.

Presenter: G. Roland Love, Winstead PC, Dallas

Continuing Education Credit: 1.0 Escrow Credit, 1.0 Legal Credit (pending)

Deadline: 4 p.m. on January 10

Register Online | Registration Form

New TREC Contracts Are Coming Your Way – Be Ready!

Thursday, January 20, 2011
10:00 - 11:00 a.m. CST

The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) approved several new contract forms, effective November 15, 2010 and their use will be mandatory after March 1, 2011. To continue excellence in customer service, you need to learn the what and the why! Speaker Dawn Moore is president/CEO of Allegiance Title Company in Dallas and serves as Lawyer Co-Chair of the TREC Broker/Lawyer Committee. Don’t miss this one!

Presenter: Dawn Enoch Moore, Allegiance Title Company, Dallas

Continuing Education Credit: 1.0 Escrow Credit, 1.0 Legal Credit (pending)

Cost is $99 members/$119 nonmembers: Cost includes one audio connection, one web connection and continuing education for up to 8 participants. An attendance form will be emailed with a detailed confirmation the day before the seminar.

Deadline: 4 p.m. on January 19.
Register Online | Registration Form


Texas Leaders Order Additional Spending Cuts

By Robert Garrett | Dallas Morning News
State leaders, trying to dig out of a hole in the current two-year budget before the next one has to be whacked, ordered agencies Tuesday to further curb spending.

Agency chiefs were told in a letter that they must reduce expenditures by 2.5 percent in the remaining nine months of the fiscal year.

Managers of the state Medicaid program immediately announced they would cut another 1 percent from the fees paid to doctors, dentists and hospitals, along with 2 percent in payments to nursing homes and home health care providers. Read full story.

TLTA Board Approves Legislative Agenda

The TLTA Board recently approved its affirmative legislative agenda for the 82nd legislative session. We’re now in the process of drafting language for potential legislation that will solve problems faced by our members on a daily basis. We will continue to keep you apprised of our progress on this front as well as our efforts to defeat or mitigate legislation harmful to our membership. Read the Board Action Request. If you have any questions, please contact either Aaron Day or Tedrah Hutchins.

Save the Date: Day at the Capitol

TLTA’s Day at the Capitol will be February 15-16, 2011. Each legislative session, industry associations fill the hallways of the Capitol with hundreds, often thousands, of professionals and they all have one goal - to educate legislators about their respective industries. We know that when it comes to title insurance, no one knows more about the importance of our industry in Texas than you, so sign up for TLTA's Day at the Capitol here.

You can also help TLTA's advocacy efforts and help us increase our strength in numbers by becoming an Individual Member today. Benefits include an individualized listing in the TLTA Membership Directory, advance registration privileges for educational events and much more. Help TLTA and join the ranks - it matters!

Kuempel Succeeds Father in Texas House

Associated Press
Despite a crowded 10-candidate field, Republican John Kuempel (KEHM'-puhl) has been elected to fill the Texas House District 44 seat left vacant by the death of his father. Longtime state Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, died Nov. 4 after suffering a heart attack. He was 67. Read full story.


U.S. House Leadership Named

James E. Hyland | The Pennsylvania Group
TLTA Federal Legislative Counsel
Newly elected to Congress, Francisco "Quico" Conseco of San Antonio has been appointed to the House Financial Services Committee, the powerful committee that oversees the financial and housing industry, including title insurance. Conseco is an attorney, businessman, developer and has served as a CEO and Board Member of a bank. A number of TLTA members already know him well. We wish him the best in his new post. Conseco will join other Texan Republicans, Jeb Hensarling, Randy Neugebauer and Kenny Marchant. Democrats Ruben Hinojosa and Al Green also serve on the Committee. Texas is very well represented on the Committee, and TLTA has a solid working relationship with all of our Texas Members. 

With the change in the U.S. House to Republican control, Congressman Jeb Hensarling (Dallas) will be the Vice Chairman of the full Financial Services Committee. This makes Mr. Hensarling the second most important member of the committee in the majority. He also holds the number four position in the GOP leadership in the House as a whole. Congressman Randy Neugebauer (Lubbock) has been named Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. This will be a powerful post overseeing the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill.

Texas Participates in ALTA Meeting With GAO on Foreclosures

On December 17, ALTA hosted staff from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for a discussion about foreclosures and their effect on our industry. A strong delegation of ALTA members took time out of their holiday schedules to fly to Washington to provide the GAO the title industry’s perspective on title transfer and the effect of foreclosures on the process. Special thanks to TLTA Federal Issues Committee Chair Celia Flowers of East Texas Title Companies who represented Texas at this important meeting. 

The group walked the GAO through a typical title transfer transaction, noting the varying differences across the country and then highlighted how a foreclosure impacts that process. Besides these handouts, the team left the GAO with the message that a foreclosure can be prevented when people follow the legal processes and protections enacted by state law. They also learned that fortunately the feared breaches of the public trust by foreclosing banks in judicial foreclosure states do not generally invade the property rights recording system that title industry members protect in order to give the insured confidence in their real estate investments.

The GAO expects to release their report in April and it will be available to the public on their website. GAO reports are generally considered balanced and serve as an influential source of non-partisan policy research in Washington. ALTA's engagement helps to ensure the accuracy of the report with respect to the title industry and the services it provides.

FDIC Provides Tips on RESPA Compliance 

On a recent conference call, RESPA - Amendments and Tips to Complying, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) for the Dallas area discussed the RESPA final rule and provided various tips to help with RESPA compliance. The call was to offer best practices in order to better avoid violations in the rule that became effective January 1. Chris Stammen, a compliance review examiner in the FDIC's Nashville office, went over the most common violations seen in the Texas area including:
Failure to provide a copy of the special information booklet;
Failure to provide the GFE within 3 business days;
Errors in accurately completing the GFE;
Errors in filling in the HUD-1;
Tolerance violations not adjusted at closing;
Failure to cure tolerance violations; and
Changing cost estimates and issuing a revised GFE without a valid changed circumstance.
View the Power Point presentation from the conference call, which includes tips for avoiding these violations, here.

ALTA Opposes Federal Land Titling System Bill

The American Land Title Association opposes a bill introduced by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) that could lead to the creation of a federal land titling system and ban Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae from accepting loans registered with the Mortgage Electronic Registrations System (MERS).

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) introduced HR 6460 last week. The bill is titled “Transparency and Security in Mortgage Registration Act of 2010.”

“ALTA is opposed to any legislation that would federalize the recordation of land records. The recording of documents associated with the local transfer of property should not be governed from Washington, D.C.,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, CEO of ALTA. “Though there is no chance that the bill will move in lame duck session, we expect it will be re-introduced in the 112th Congress and could be the focus of serious conversation.” Read the full story.

HUD Revises HUD-1 Form

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently introduced revisions for the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, closing certification on home equity conversion mortgages (HECM). The changes give HUD more authority to impose penalties for fraudulent activity and attempt to stop fraudulent behavior before closing. Read HUD’s full letter.

Bachus Confirmed as Barney Frank’s Replacement

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) has been confirmed as the next House Financial Services Committee Chairman in the 112th Congress. Bachus was chosen by the GOP Steering Committee last week. Aides to the lawmaker said he will conduct rigorous oversight of the Obama administration as officials implement the sweeping financial regulatory law. Read the full story.


Case Review: Don't Make This Mistake

Shoalmire v. U.S. Title of Harrison County
Greg Gossett | Gossett, Harrison, Millican & Stipanovic, P. C

This case is a reminder that the closing or escrow agent should never make any statement or representation about the property or the transaction. The Shoalmires located the subject property on a real estate website which advertised thirteen and a half acres with a modular home, shop and pond. After having the property inspected, the Shoalmires closed the sale with an interim loan. Read full case review.

TX Supreme Court Decides Open Beaches Act Case

By Morgan Smith | Texas Tribune
In a pivotal decision that will attract the attention of property rights groups and open beach advocates across the country, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the Open Beaches Act may not allow the state to ask landowners to remove private property if a hurricane or other natural disaster moves it within the public section of a beach. Read full story.


TLTAPAC Contributes to 100% of Texas Legislators

For the first time ever, the TLTAPAC has contributed to every member of the upcoming 82nd Legislative Session. This would not have been possible without our generous members who made visits in their districts and attended fundraisers on TLTA's behalf. Special thanks to Celia Goode-Haddock, Chris Cangelosi, Michael Savas, Mark Greek, Carl Pankratz, Randy Pittman, Doug Hallowell, Becky Altemus, Julia Neely, John C. Martin, Guy Robert Jackson and Austin Dishman.

Lonestar Title Holds 'Jeans and Tennis Shoe Day'

On November 10, Lone Star Title employees in El Paso participated in a “Jeans & Tennis Shoe Day for the TLTAPAC”. Employees contributed $5 to wear jeans to work and $10 to wear jeans and tennis shoes. Lone Star Title also matched the donations. TLTA wants to thank Lone Star Title for this wonderful fundraising idea and we want to encourage other offices to try it out as well!

By contributing to the TLTAPAC, you are helping to educate and inform elected officials about the industry and you are becoming politically involved. In order for TLTA’s voice to be heard, it is necessary to have your support and participation in the political process. Your contribution to the TLTAPAC is an investment in the title business and our profession. Donate online today!.

TLTAbay a Great Success

We would like to thank all of our members who participated in the 2010 TLTAbay Annual Online Auction! You helped us raise a record $14,700! Special thanks to the TLTAbay subcommittee including Celia Goode-Haddock, Sheri Asbell, Andrea Elliott, Michael Roe, Stephanie Goble and Lucinda Sullivan. We would also like to thank our donors and the winners below. We’ll see you again next year!

2010 TLTAbay Winners:
Aaron Day
Allen Place
Ann Garza
Becky Cotton
Betty Winters
Bobby Stovall
Carla Smith
Celia Goode-Haddock
Charlotte Meyer
Christina Fontenot
Darlene Fairchild
Donna Jackson
EJ Brent
Elva Cornish
Glenda Choate
Jackie Bauer
Janet Karr
Janet Minke
Janice Sweitzer
Jennifer Smith
Jim Johnson
Jimmy Peacock
Jo Hatcher
Joey Prohaska
Judy Ballard
Julia Neely
Keisha Tolbert
Ken Whitlow
Kim Minks
Kim Schoppert
Lisa Garrett
Lloyd Draper
Lynda Tiedtke
Marian Cones
Mark Prihoda
Mary Beth Kiser
Maureen Kersey
Molly Mallet
Myrna Boulter
Patricia Coad
Patricia Galttana-Hicks
Paul Cones
Paula Daughtry
Randy Pearson
Roland Love
Sally Vetters
Scott Skokna
Stephanie Goble
Steven Williams
Susan Sims
Teresa Frost
Terry Grantham
Tracey Becker
W. Calloway Huffaker
Whitney Withers


Did You Miss the Institute?

This year’s Texas Land Title Institute celebrated its 20th Anniversary and it’s second highest attendance with more than 435 real estate attorneys and title insurance professionals on December 2nd & 3rd at the Hyatt Hill Country Hotel in San Antonio. If you didn’t attend this year’s Institute, you don’t have to miss out on the materials from this year – or any other year! We’ve compiled 20 years worth of Institute course articles in one place that can be accessed easily. The Institute Legal Library Subscription is an online resource with access to over 400 title industry course articles presented throughout the 20-year history of the Institute. Order or get more information here. Podcasts of select 2010 presentations will be available for purchase too – watch for more on this soon!

Industry Stats

Indicator Release Date Latest Release Change from Previous Release
30 Year Fixed Mortgage Rates 12/02/10 4.46% +0.06
15 Year Fixed Mortgage Rates 12/02/10 3.40% +0.01
10 Year Treasury Rate 12/03/10 3.03% +0.01
Existing Home Sales (in millions) 11/23/10 4.43 -2.2%
New Home Sales 11/24/10 283,000 -8.1%
Supply of Housing Inventory 11/24/10 8.6 months +0.6 months
Information courtesy of ALTA

TLTA Wants to be Your Friend!

TLTA has a new Facebook page and we want to be your friend! ‘Like’ our page today and receive up-to-the-second updates on industry news, photos at TLTA events and other information. Friend us here.

TLTA Hot Topics Page

TLTA is proud to debut its new Hot Topics page, providing you easy access to the information you need about current issues in the title insurance industry. Get all the latest news, related documents and education you need to understand what’s going on in the market.