Tim Anderson speaks to NMN about Remote Online Notarizations “RONs”



By Spencer Lee, April 03, 2023, 5:48 p.m. EDT

Massachusetts has become the latest state to update laws that make remote online notarizations for real estate closings and other business transactions permanent after the signing of new legislation last week.

Governor Maura Healey authorized a provision, which was included in the state’s supplemental budget, granting permission to notaries in the Bay State to perform RONs beginning in January 2024. Massachusetts joins 44 other jurisdictions with similar legislation on their books, according to data from the American Land Title Association. For much of the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts had permitted “virtual” electronic notarizations but repealed that rule with passage of the new legislation.

The state will issue further details related to permanent remote signing before the end of the year, according to the memo issued by the land court of Massachusetts. No guidance permitting RONs between April and December has been released. Massachusetts, which mandates an attorney’s presence at real estate closings, had been one of a handful of states that had not enacted laws authorizing remote online notarizations.

“What makes this significant is that Massachusetts is an attorney closing state, and as such, they have traditionally been among the slowest to amend or adopt remote online notary laws,” said Tim Anderson, president of eMortgage division at Evolve Mortgage Services.
Once new RON laws went into effect in neighboring New York, which has lawyer involvement in the closing process but not necessarily at signing, Massachusetts may have felt “pressure to formalize their law as well in order to remain competitive and relevant,” according to Anderson.

ALTA reports Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina as states currently prohibiting remote notarizations. The majority of them, like Massachusetts, mandate an attorney physically appear at closing of real estate deals. But in the past year, Delaware and North Carolina — two other attorney-close states — also passed legislation opening up RONs. Their laws are set to become effective this summer.

As New York’s new rules may have helped lead Massachusetts toward greater acceptance of remote notarizations, developments in North Carolina could provide momentum for RON advocates in nearby states, notably its neighbor to the south, Anderson said.
“I think South Carolina is actually going to happen pretty quickly because North Carolina passed. A lot of attorneys are licensed in both states for that case,” Anderson said.

California, though, remains a staunch holdout. Although it is not an attorney-closing jurisdiction, attempts to open up RON access there have faced vocal resistance, and its leaders have been some of the fiercest opponents of a federal law imposing national guidelines.

Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of sponsors in the House of Representatives reintroduced a bill that would mandate the recognition of remote online notarizations nationwide and set minimum security standards. Federal RON legislation has been attempted two other times since 2020, with both ALTA and the Mortgage Bankers Association actively supporting the efforts among their members.

To view the original article and additional features: National Mortgage News

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