New York Title Agent Licensing Law Improves Confidence in Real Estate Deals

October 28, 2014

Legislation that went into effect Sept. 29 brought New York into the ranks of 47 other states that require licensing of title insurance agents and companies.

The New York State Land Title Association (NYSLTA), which advocated for the licensing of title insurance agents for more than 10 years, issued a memorandum of support for the licensing requirement earlier this year.

“NYSLTA’s member-companies are committed to complying with the law and we understand the benefits of transparency under the state’s new regulatory structure,” said Richard Gilotti, chair of NYSLTA’s Title Section. “During a real estate transaction, professional land title insurance agents are key to maintaining the integrity of the public land records system, the confidence of consumers and their attorneys, as well as regulators and the financial community.”

The requirements of the legislation include:

  • licensing of title insurance agents and minimum qualifications standards
  • implementing of a continuing education program for title insurance agents
  • disclosing fees charged to consumers
  • strengthening enforcement of illegal inducements
  • preserving the business model, including existing customs and practice

In August, DFS published instructions and applications for title agent licensure. NYSLTA worked with state officials and other industry experts to shape the new licensure requirement law, which was included in the 2014-2015 state executive budget.

According to New York’s Department of Financial services, the state will waive the pre-licensing education and examination requirement for attorneys who are in good standing, or for agents who are able to show (and document) they have worked five consecutive years in the profession. Agents must still engage DFS to complete required forms. The waiver expires in September 2015, according to DFS. Additionally, the state has offered a grace period until Jan. 1, 2015, for agents and companies to apply for the license. Those who meet the deadline may continue working as title insurance agents until the superintendent of financial services has rendered a determination—either to issue the license or reject the application. Those who miss the deadline must cease acting as an agent until the application process is complete and the DFS superintendent has issued a license.

“Confidence and competence are key to every real estate transaction,” said Michael Kelly, chair of NYSLTA’s Underwriter Section. “An enhanced statutory and regulatory environment will support economic activity and investment across New York’s real estate community.”

According to the law, a title insurance agent is “any authorized or acknowledged agent of a title insurance corporation, and any subagent or other representative of such an agent, who or which for commission, compensation, or any other thing of value, performs the following acts in conjunction with the issuance of a title insurance policy:

  • sells, or negotiates the sale of a title insurance policy
  • evaluates the insurability of title, based upon the performance or review of a title search and performs one or more of the following functions: collects, remits or disburses title insurance premiums, escrows or other related funds; prepares, amends, marks up or delivers a title insurance commitment or certificate of title for the purpose of the issuance of a title insurance policy by a title insurance corporation; prepares, amends or delivers a title insurance policy on behalf of a title insurance corporation; or negotiates the clearance of title exceptions, in connection with the issuance of a title insurance policy.

The law requires title insurance agents to provide at the time of application, a written good faith estimate of the premium on the policy(s) to be issued. The title agent also must provide a “breakdown of all fees and service costs, including filing fees, closing costs, any other ancillary or discretionary charges to be incurred and the amount of any commission of other compensation to be paid to such agent by the title insurance corporation.” The good faith estimate is one of a number of required disclosures that title agents must provide.

Illinois and Kentucky are the two states that don’t require title agents to be licensed. In Illinois, title agents must annually register with the state's Department of Financial Services. Kentucky is looking into licensing legislation. 

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or