COVID-19: ATG Update #5 - Government Office Closures and the Impact on ATG-Insured Real Estate Transactions

EDITOR'S NOTE: For all ATG updates related to this topic, see COVID-19 Updates.

We are monitoring government office closures as several State, County, and Municipal offices have closed in response to public health concerns related to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Some offices currently allow for e-recording while others do not. There are cases where we will be unable to obtain sold tax information or unable to purchase municipal revenue stamps. This situation is fluid and information can change hourly.

E-Recording or Drop-Off: If you can complete the recording process through e-recording or drop-off, you may close your transaction as normal.

If E-Recording or Drop-Off are Not Available: To facilitate transactions when e-recording or drop-off are not available, or you do not have the municipal revenue stamp, ATG is willing to continue to insure titles for purchasers and lenders through the ultimate recording date of the deed, mortgage, or other insured title document, under the following conditions:

  1. Execute an agreement indicating all parties, including lenders, acknowledge that neither ATG nor its title agents can provide any estimate as to the date of recordation of such title documents. The COVID-19 Indemnity and Hold Harmless Agreements listed include written acknowledgments for execution by sellers, buyers, and borrowers, as applicable. Satisfactory acknowledgments by lenders may be indicated through closing instructions or by email confirmation, to be retained in your file.

    COVID-19 Indemnity and Hold Harmless Agreement
    COVID-19 Indemnity and Hold Harmless Agreement - Buyer
    COVID-19 Indemnity and Hold Harmless Agreement - Seller

    NOTE: For your convenience, the COVID-19 Indemnity and Hold Harmless Agreement form is available in all ATG production systems and the Schedule B language will be added to ATG commitments automatically. If you use a non-ATG production system (e.g., SoftPro) please add this language.

  2. Add the following Requirement in Schedule B-1 of the Commitment:

    Execution of COVID-19 Indemnity and Hold Harmless Agreement by the parties to the transaction.

  3. Add the following Exception to Schedule B of the Commitment:

    ATG reserves the right to raise additional exceptions, requirements or to decline to issue a title policy based on changes in recording and title searching capabilities due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Please Contact an Underwriter for guidance if you are unable to obtain payoff letters or other title clearance due to government or municipality office closures.

In addition to obtaining the relevant Indemnity and Hold Harmless Agreement and lender confirmation, please make certain that any lender or customer instructions do not commit you to record the title documents or issue the title policies within a specified time period.

Current market conditions may cause a significant increase in title insurance risk factors. Careful consideration must be given to bankruptcy risk, lack of constructive notice to third parties, and enforceability of the gap indemnification. In those cases where there exists a significant risk associated with the gap period, Contact an Underwriter.

For All Transactions: Continue to follow all other underwriting guidelines, including conducting a gap search before closing. All other Requirements must be satisfied prior to, or upon, closing as in any normal case.

This Underwriters' Bulletin will remain in effect until it is suspended or superseded by a new Underwriters' Bulletin or communication from Attorneys' Title Guaranty Fund, Inc. If you have questions about underwriting procedures or the COVID-19 Indemnity and Hold Harmless Agreement, please Contact an Underwriter.

Reminders from Past ATG COVID-19 Updates

NOTE: For details, see COVID-19 Updates.

Office Cleanliness: We continue to follow CDC guidance for providing a safe environment in our offices. We are limiting personnel, limiting contact, disinfecting surfaces and closing rooms, offering gloves and disposable pens.

Power of Attorney (POA): Buyers' attorneys, if possible, please contact your clients and their lenders to request POA approval. Obtaining POA prior to closing will limit the number of people attending the closing.

Buyers and Sellers, Original Documents: If clients are unable or unwilling to attend a closing, we can provide sellers’ attorneys a return label prior to closing so you can send original, seller-signed documents to the closing. We can also work with you on drop-off or pick-up options for seller-signed documents.

Limiting Attendance: Please consider whether or not parties who are not central to the transaction should attend.

Communication: Our experienced staff will communicate with you during the entire process via email and phone.

Watch Email and Check Our Website for Updates

This situation is fluid, changes may occur as further developments unfold. We will continue to provide updated information as rapidly as possible. Please continue to watch your email and check ATG COVID-19 Updates for the latest information. Know that your health and safety, as well as that of our employees, is our top concern.

Feel free to Contact Us if you have questions. We value your feedback and appreciate your support.

[Last update: 4-2-20]

Posted on: Wed, 03/18/2020 - 4:31pm