Legislation has been introduced in Oklahoma that could require any Signing Agent who schedules a closing appointment or conducts a conference at which real property documents are signed to obtain a settlement agent license. The NNA opposes the legislation as it is currently drafted.
House Bill 1884 would require anyone who performs certain activities related to real estate transactions to become licensed as a settlement agent.
Any person who performs “escrow, closing, or settlement services,” as defined in the legislation, will need to pay $135 to obtain a 1-year license as a settlement agent. Each year after that the renewal fee would be $60. In addition, the bill would require licensees to take up to 10 continuing education hours each year.
The key part of the bill is the definition of “escrow, closing, or settlement services” on page 3 of the introduced bill. That definition reads:
“Escrow, closing, or settlement services” means the administrative and clerical services required to carry out the terms of contracts affecting real estate including, but not limited to, the sale, exchange, or mortgaging of real estate. These services include, but are not limited to, placing orders for title insurance, placing orders for abstracts, receiving money and issuing receipts for money received from any party to the transaction, ordering loan checks and payoffs, ordering surveys and inspections, preparing settlement statements, determining that all closing documents conform to the contract requirements of the parties, setting the closing appointment, following up with the parties to ensure that the transaction progresses to closing, ascertaining that the instructions of the lender have been satisfied, conducting a closing conference at which the documents are executed, receiving and disbursing funds, completing form documents, and sending the recorded documents and the title policies to the appropriate parties.”
The definition lists a variety of services that constitute escrow, closing, or settlement services, most of which are performed only by closing or settlement agents. However, the definition includes two specific activities that Notary Signing Agents regularly perform. These two services are:
(1) Setting the closing appointment, and
(2) Conducting a closing conference at which real property documents are executed.
The National Notary Association has already written a letter to the bill sponsor urging that the two problematic services, setting the closing appointment and conducting the conference at which documents are signed, be removed from the definition of “escrow, closing, or settlement services.” The NNA believes that this amendment will allow Oklahoma NSAs to freely operate without having to be licensed as a settlement agent.