More than 70 representatives of the mortgage finance industry met with the National Notary Association (NNA) this week to solidify important health and safety guidance for Signing Agents, mobile Notaries and signers/borrowers amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Among the significant developments is a new NNA Best Practice recommendation that both Notaries and signers/borrowers complete a disclosure form prior to each individual signing which includes questions about recent travel and/or possible exposure to anyone diagnosed with the Coronavirus. New NNA requirements and protocols now include:
The Notary and signer must be able to communicate with each other by sight and sound through the window and by normal means. Cell phones, FaceTime, Skype or other electronic communication tools must not be used for a “window-separated signing.”
The Notary must follow all federal, state and local guidelines for social distancing, health protection and sanitization when meeting with signers and handling documents, IDs or other materials. When items are passed between the signer and Notary, one person should place the item in a neutral area and then step back and provide safe distance to allow the other person to pick it up.
The signer must give their actual ID to the Notary to view and inspect. The ID may not be viewed at a distance or through a window. The Notary should retain possession of the ID until the end of the signing, and then return it to the signer.
The Notary must directly witness the signer sign the document in direct line of sight. This may be done through a window or doorway.
The Notary must complete all journal entries before handing the journal to the signer in an appropriate social distancing manner. The signer should sign (and in California, place any required thumbprint) in the appropriate journal entry through a window or doorway in direct line of sight of the Notary.
The Notary must complete all notarial certificates in direct line of sight of the signer through a window or doorway before leaving the signing.
The Notary must take reasonable steps to ensure the same documents handed to the signer are the same ones handed back to the Notary. The Notary should compare all signatures on notarized documents with the signatures made in the journal entries, and with the signature on the ID that the Notary has retained throughout the entire signing, to ensure the same person signed the documents.
Many Bay Area title companies have reported that only a handful of mobile Notaries are actively working during the Covid-19 crisis. One such mobile Notary, Brenda Zarate (bzarate@ zaratenotarypublic.com) has reported a significant spike in business noting that ‘Notaries and signers are no doubt extremely concerned about possible contact with COVID-19 when meeting face to face during loan signings and notarizations. Fortunately, we have been able to assure our clients that not only are we conducting signings through a window or doorway at a safe distance - but strictly enforcing the use of gloves, sanitizers, face masks and thorough hand washing”
With the NNA’s new health guidelines for mobile Notaries, despite the disruption that the COVID-19 virus has caused, buyers and sellers can still close their transactions in a timely manner while still having a high level of confidence that they are protected and safe.
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