Bulletin: GA2020003

Date:
March 20, 2020
To:
All Georgia Issuing Offices
RE:
UNDERWRITING - Recording Offices Closed Because of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Dear Associates:

Given the uncertainty of how COVID-19 may impact the recording and indexing of documents. Stewart has issued a National Bulletin that provides guidelines for insuring transactions.

Please review the National Bulletin in its entirety, and please note that the following ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES apply to Georgia transactions:

The above national bulletin as it applies to Georgia is hereby supplemented as follows: in order to issue a policy under the above guidelines, Georgia agents should utilize the following:

If recording is available by any means, either electronic or by mail, then the means of recording that is available must be utilized in order to record the insured document as soon as possible;

For counties that are closed, title searches must be brought forward to the most recent date available through the Georgia Superior Court Clerk’s Cooperative Authority (“GSCCCA”) indexes; and

For transactions in which the purchase price and loan amount are both less than 3 million dollars (or for a refinance the loan amount is less than 3 million dollars) and otherwise meets the criteria set out in the national bulletin referenced above, a Home Owner’s Policy, Long Form Owner’s Policy, Short Form Lender’s Policy and a Long Form Lender’s Policy may be issued in counties in which the courthouse is currently closed due to the coronavirus, provided the following guidelines are met:

(1) County title records are searched by a title examiner on GSCCCA as far back as available for that particular county;

(2) The applicable search period on the GSCCCA index goes back far enough to pick up: (1) two bona fide deeds (deeds that appear to involve an arm’s length sale (not gift) between unrelated parties and (2) a purchase money mortgage to an institutional lender (i.e. not an individual seller);

(3) A lien search must be conducted on GSCCCA and it must go far enough back to cover the applicable lien period; and

(4) Schedule B of the policies must contain exceptions relating to taxes occurring after policy date (or exception for any taxes that confirmation of payment was not able to be verified), easements, covenants, conditions and restrictions of record, and minerals. Note that Short Form Residential Policy already contains exceptions for these matters in the pre-printed standard exceptions so long as you can confirm taxes are paid current, and the Homeowner’s Policy Schedule B standard exceptions cover these matters (provided taxes are paid current). However, special exceptions will need to be added to cover these matters in both long form owners and long form lenders policies, as follows: (a) Covenants, conditions, restrictions, easements, and servitudes appearing in the public records. (b) Any lease, grant, exception or reservation of mineral or mineral rights or other subsurface substances appearing in the Public Records.

The above is only intended to reduce the search period required in order to issue a policy and to allow use of GSCCCA indexes rather than the official county indexes to complete a search within the parameters stated herein during the time period the courthouse is closed in a particular county or until further notice from the Company. Further, the GSCCCA indexes can be used to update title and bring the date forward from existing title policies where the liability amount is under 3 million dollars during this time period.

For water/sewer bills and homeowner’s association dues (individually or collectively “Utility Bills”), in addition to requesting amounts due/payoffs from the local municipality or association an affidavit and indemnity should be obtained from the Seller/Owner at closing confirming fully paid. If a request for a Utility Bill has been made and is not received, you can insure without exception as to the Utility Bills if you have evidence that the Utility Bills are fully paid to a date within 60 days of closing in conjunction with an affidavit and indemnity agreement from the Seller/Owner that Utility Bills are paid current.

In the event you have a transaction that exceeds 3 million dollars or is otherwise not within the above parameters or have additional questions, please contact one of our underwriter’s to discuss: Brian Pierce at brian.pierce@stewart.com or bruce.ferguson@stewart.com.

If you have any questions relating to this or other bulletins, please contact a Stewart Title Guaranty Company underwriter.

For on-line viewing of this and other bulletins, please log onto www.vuwriter.com.

THIS BULLETIN IS FURNISHED TO INFORM YOU OF CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS. AS A REMINDER, YOU ARE CHARGED WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONTENT ON VIRTUAL UNDERWRITER  AS IT EXISTS FROM TIME TO TIME AS IT APPLIES TO YOU, AS WELL AS ANY OTHER INSTRUCTIONS. OUR UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS DO NOT AUTHORIZE OUR ISSUING AGENTS TO ENGAGE IN SETTLEMENTS OR CLOSINGS ON BEHALF OF STEWART TITLE GUARANTY COMPANY. THIS BULLETIN IS NOT INTENDED TO DIRECT YOUR ESCROW OR SETTLEMENT PRACTICES OR TO CHANGE PROVISIONS OF APPLICABLE UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS. CONFIDENTIAL, PROPRIETARY, OR NONPUBLIC PERSONAL INFORMATION SHOULD NEVER BE SHARED OR DISSEMINATED EXCEPT AS ALLOWED BY LAW. IF APPLICABLE STATE LAW OR REGULATION IMPOSES ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS, YOU SHOULD CONTINUE TO COMPLY WITH THOSE REQUIREMENTS.