Title, Settlement Companies Develop Safe Closing Protocols
Recent concerns relating to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) has generated significant public attention and changes in guidelines prescribed by health officials such as the CDC and the WHO. Title and settlement companies across the country have developed protocols to ensure healthy and safe closings in the wake of this uncertainty.
Among the measures include hand sanitizer in all shared spaces, extra disinfecting supplies for and enforcing any employees and/or clients who feel ill to stay home.
“We are having to deal with a situation outside of our control despite having one of the busiest couple of months in the history of our company,” said Bill Burding, executive vice president and general counsel for Orange Coast Title Co. “The number one concern is the health of our staff and clients. We’ve implemented procedures on the closing side to keep everyone as safe as possible. The problem we’re seeing now is on the production side, along with the closure of several county recording offices that will further delay recordings. Companies across the country must understand that it may take a little longer to get deals closed.”
At Knight Barry Title, they are social distancing at the closing table to sign documents. The company has packed up glass coffee and water cups and now using disposable ones. Also, the company has bought hundreds of pens. Signers either take then pen when done or they’re thrown out after the signing.
“Things we’ve never had to consider before are all happening at the busiest time in the history of what we do,” said Craig Haskins, Knight Barry Title’s chief operating officer.
Haskins said a remote online notary bill signed March 4 by Gov. Tony Evers could help keep. The legislation doesn’t go into effect until June 1, however. Haskins said the industry has asked if the process could be sped up in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Until then, title and settlement companies must follow protocols that keep everyone as safe as possible.
“Realtors and lenders are beginning to ask questions about closing availability and safety measures so it’s important that title companies get ahead of this,” said Lawrence Duthler, president and co-founder of Michigan-based Sun Title Agency. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our employees, clients and their families. We also recognize that we play an integral role in the real estate industry and must remain open and available to handle service the needs of our customers.”
Below are operational procedures title and settlement companies have implemented. What precautions has your company developed to help keep your staff and clients safe? You can post here or share them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arriving to a Closing: Guests are encouraged to use hand sanitizer and/or wash hands upon arrival at our office.
Symptomatic Clients: Any guest who exhibits symptoms that may be like coronavirus (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.) must notify staff upon arrival and we will escort out of common areas into a private closing room.
Post-Closing Disinfecting: After each closing, the chairs, table and door handle will be wiped down with disinfecting wipes or bleach solution.
Closing Table Items: Remove pens, paper, extra reading glasses and other items normally found on the closing tables. Distribute new pens to each closing participant and not re-used.
Lobby Items: All reading materials, ceramic mugs and other re-usable items have been removed.
Children’s Play Areas: Remove children’s play areas and place in storage.
Hand Sanitizer: Provide hand sanitizer in closing spaces. If none is available, encourage employees and visitors to wash their hands before and after any closing or other meeting.
General Environmental Cleaning: Cleaning personnel are using appropriate germ-killing solutions when cleaning office areas after-hours.
Social Distancing: When possible, stay approximately six feet from others.
Workforce Dispersion: If needed, invest in technology solutions that allows employees to work from remote locations, assuring production and service continuity.