December 2009


SOAH JUDGES ISSUE RECOMMENDATION IN 2008 BIENNIAL RATE HEARING 

Yesterday, the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) judges, who heard the 2008 Biennial Rate Case in September, issued their proposal for decision to the Commissioner of Insurance. They recommend a 2.66% increase in the basic premium rates for title insurance in Texas. Their proposal includes the judges’ underlying rationale including their analysis of all the parties’ recommendations. Testimony from the hearing can also be referred to on our website. TDI expert witnesses had recommended no change to the rates, OPIC recommended a 9.6% rate decrease and TLTA recommended a 13.3% rate increase.

It is important to note that this is a recommendation and not a final ruling. The judges’ recommendation has now been sent to Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin, who will consider it and render a final decision. We are hopeful that this recommendation will result in a much needed rate increase. We understand that the delays in this process throughout the past year have contributed to hardship for many of our members in this economic environment. We will continue to stay on top of developments and will certainly keep you updated on this matter of critical importance to our industry.

MARK BILBREY APPOINTED PRESIDENT OF OLD REPUBLIC TITLE COMPANIES


Earlier this week, Old Republic International Corporation announced that Mark Bilbrey has been appointed President of the Old Republic Title Companies. He succeeds Rande K. Yeager who will retain his responsibilities as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Mark, who is based in Houston, joined Old Republic Title in 2007 as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Central Title Group. He has over 35 years of experience in all facets of the title insurance industry including management, finance, marketing, technology, and agency operations. A native of Oklahoma, Bilbrey is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and is active in many civic and community organizations. View Old Republic's official press release

REAL ESTATE DISPOSITION ANNOUNCES ACQUISITION OF COMMERCE TITLE RETAIL


On Monday, the Real Estate Disposition, LLC announced their intention to acquire the Commerce Title retail title insurance agency platform. Commerce Title, formally a subsidiary of Centex Corporation, merged with Pulte Homes, Inc. in August. According to REDC press release, the Commerce Title brand, retail branch network and certain additional support assets are included in the sale, but Pulte will continue to retain the portion of Commerce Title operations that supports new homes sales. 

FANNIE, FREDDIE SET NEW HAMP GUIDELINES ON DOCUMENTATION

GUIDELINES INCREASE CAPITALIZATION

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac released their new guidelines for their services modifying mortgages under the Home Affordable Modifcation Program (HAMP) earlier this week. In addition to requiring servicers to send a written notice to every borrower evaluated for HAMP, the guidelines also increase the capitalization threshold from $20,000 to $50,000 when determining whether title insurance is required. For additional information please view the complete HousingWire.com story.

HUD RELEASES NEW CONSUMER HOME BUYING GUIDE


Earlier this week the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a new consumer home buying guide - Shopping for Your Home Loan - HUD's Settlement Cost Booklet. Under the new RESPA Rule that takes effect on January 1, 2010, lenders and mortgage brokers are required to provide borrowers a copy of this booklet within three days of when the borrower applies for a loan. 

ESCROW OFFICERS: AVOID THE BAD RAP; GIVE GOOD ADVICE ON SURVEYS AND AFFIDAVITS

By: Dawn Enoch Moore, President/CEO Allegiance Title Company

The TREC One to Four Family Residential Contract governs the rights and obligations of the parties to the contract so that failure to perform certain obligations by either the Buyer or Seller affects the rights of the other party. Although not a party to the contract, and therefore having no authority to demand or waive performance obligations of the Seller or Buyer, an escrow officer or lender, in an effort to “service” the customer and save them an inconvenience or cost, will sometimes advise the Seller or Buyer in such a way as to put them in default of their contractual obligations. The provisions under which an escrow officer or lender is most apt to give bad advice are under Paragraph 6 of the TREC Contract. 

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORKPLACE


As reported in the November Downdate, University Title Company was named One of the Best Companies to Work in Texas for the third consecutive year. We asked TLTA Board member and President/CEO of University Title Company Celia Goode-Haddock to share what it takes to be one of the top-rated workplaces in Texas. Here's what she had to say:

For three years in a row University Title Company has been selected as one of the Best Companies to Work for in Texas. Great, but what difference does that make? Why does any company want to be one of the Best Companies to Work for in Texas? Employees who are treated the best provide exceptional service, and that is our mission. Considering that the majority of waking hours in each day are spent at work, our management team believes that those hours should be enjoyable and something to look forward to. In the seasonal, incredibly stressful business of title insurance, keeping employees happy means that they are sane and not yet ready to walk out the door. For the implications of customer service, morale of employees and profitability, University Title Company holds the honor of being a Best Company in high regard. 

TLTA LAUNCHES NEW, IMPROVED WEBSITE


We're your source! In November, TLTA launched our new website, which continues to deliver the latest news, industry information and education available 24/7 on www.tlta.com. In addition to a fresh new look and upgraded technology, the new website features a number of member benefits including:

Search Features; 

Easier Navigation; 

Downloadable Directory; 

And lots of additional new content such as consumer resources, industry public relations section, an expanded helpful information section and much, much more. 

WE'RE YOUR SOURCE: TLTA EDUCATION ON DEMAND


Over 4,000 title professionals agree - TLTA is your source for the latest educational programming. Designed by Texas title professionals with the specific needs of title industry personnel as their priority, there is sure to be a program or resource that will help you maximize your professional expertise as well as develop new skills to add to your toolbox. The holidays are an excellent time to brush up on your skills and get ready for the new year. TLTA has several options available for obtaining continuing education hours without leaving the office. Check out some of our great in-office options: 

Archived Webinars
If you missed one of TLTA’s live webinars but don’t want to miss out on the important industry information provided, here’s your chance.

Online Videos
Watch excerpts from some of our best seminars online and receive continuing education credit.

DVDs
These are the most efficient distance learning products in the TLTA catalog. Order a DVD and receive up to 8 hours of credit per DVD set.

Podcasts
Listen to podcasts from some of our best seminars and receive continuing education credit.

TLTA University
Choose from eight self-paced online courses covering valuable title industry information that walk you through the content and help you internalize the information more easily through interactivities, narration, and graphics.

SAVE THE DATES: UPCOMING TLTA EVENTS


2010 Land Title School of Texas
March 1-5, 2010 - Omni Austin at Southpark


“The Land Title School was very valuable to me. I needed to be exposed to all parts of the industry and needed to have a basic knowledge about everything. I have built on the information that I received at the School and I now run the company. It is exciting to see how far I have come and how much the School really gave me a place to start in areas that I never would have guessed that I would enter.” - Samantha A. Marrs, CTIA, Texas Country Title

If you have been in the industry a few months to five years and/or recently switched positions within your company, this program is designed for your needs. Mark your calendar now and make plans to attend the 2010 Land Title School of Texas. 

TLTA's PRODUCT OF THE MONTH

2010 Basic Manual Update Subscription Service

The Texas Department of Insurance has issued their final adoption order for the 2008 Biennial Rule Hearing. These newly adopted rules will go into effect on February 1, 2010. Start your new year off on the right foot and sign up today for TLTA's 2010 Basic Manual Update subscription service. The Basic Manual update subscription service is just one of your member benefits and provides the most cost-effective and efficient means to ensure your Basic Manual is always in compliance. As part of the Texas Department of Insurance's current audit procedures, they require proof of a current up-to-date Basic Manual. Stay in compliance, save money and stop guessing - become a Basic Manual Update subscriber today and receive all of the updates for 2010. 

Please Note: Renewal notices were emailed to all 2009 Basic Manual subscribers earlier this week, if you are a subscriber and did not receive the renewal notice please contact TLTA at 512.472.6593.

TEXAS' NEW CERTIFIED PROFESSIONALS HONORED DURING 19th ANNUAL ROBERT C. SNEED TEXAS LAND TITLE INSTITUTE


In 2003, the TLTA Board of Directors created the Certification Task Force, which would later become the Certification Committee, and charged them with investigating and developing a certification program for TLTA members. Over a half a decade, consisting of countless hours, the TLTA volunteers and staff have successfully launched Texas' first-ever certification program for title insurance professional. At the end of our inaugural year, Texas' has over sixty certified title professionals, including the new designees who were recognized recently during the 19th Annual Texas Land Title Institute.

APPLY BY FEBRUARY 2, 2010 TO SIT FOR SPRING EXAMINATIONS

We're now accepting applications for the Spring 2010 certification examinations. The exams are scheduled to take place on March 2 and 3 in Austin. There are currently three professional designations a title professional can earn. They are:

CESA - Certified Escrow Settlement Associate
CAEA - Certified Abstract Examination Associate
CTIA - Certified Title Insurance Associate

View additional TLTA certification information or contact Kim Schoppert at Kim@tlta.com.

LORRIE CORNET-COTTEN A CHAMPION FOR BREAST CANCER 


In November, Lorrie Cornet-Cotten and her daughter Meaghan participated in the Dallas Fort Worth Breast Cancer 3-Day event. 3,000 walkers, 300 of which were men, walked sixty miles over three days to help raise awareness and money for breast cancer research. Their "incredible" journey was filled with emotional and amusing moments. The volunteers, who paid $100 each to work the event, helped keep spirits high as they traveled along the course in decorated vehicles with crew members dressed in costume and holding signs to encourage participants.

Some of the 3-Day highlights included visiting with survivors and those walking on behalf of a family member currently battling the disease, the school children that cheered them on and the drivers who honked to show their support, Lorrie's husband WT the "walker stalker" who brought three dozen Krispy Kreme donuts and never once missed an opportunity to snap pictures of participants, the male walker who wore a 40 EEEE bra filled with M&M's and the medic who asked Lorrie if she was a dancer or marathoner because all of her blisters "were in calluses." 

The event raised over $7.5 million dollars and Lorrie and her daughter were one of the first 100 walkers to finish. However, she's quick to point out that without the support of her family, friends and colleagues none of this would have been possible. As a special thank you to her family, Lorrie and Meaghan wore camouflage to honor their husbands and son who chose to support them instead of being at the ranch/lease for opening weekend of deer season.

Share Your Stories and Photos
We know many of you are engaged in volunteer and community outreach efforts and we want to know about it. Email your stories and/or photos to Tedrah Hutchins so we can share your efforts and achievements with other members in a future Downdate.

WELCOME TO OUR NEW MEMBERS


We would like to welcome our newest members to TLTA. A list of new members approved in October by the TLTA Board of Directors can be viewed on our website.

WE WANT TO KNOW

TLTA is constantly looking for new ways to serve our members. Recently, we've received a number of inquiries regarding E&O Insurance coverage and in order to be responsive, we are seeking some information from you. Please take a few minutes to complete this brief questionnaire. 

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