Bulletin: MU2020002

Date:
March 18, 2020
To:
All Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont Issuing Offices
RE:
UNDERWRITING - Insuring MA, RI, VT Transactions During Town Hall and Recording Office Closures Due to COVID-19

Dear Associates:

As states seek to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus many government offices are limiting physical access to the public. We have already seen various closings and modified recording processes at Registries and Town Halls throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Stewart Title Guaranty Company (“Stewart”) is committed to our partners and providing solutions to allow agents to continue closing and insuring transactions. 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.

This bulletin supplements those guidelines for transactions in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In addition to the conditions set forth in the National Bulletin, for transactions which fall outside of one or more of the conditions in the National Bulletin or listed herein, please contact your state underwriter for approval prior to issuing policies.

If you have satisfactory title information, but are unable to record the real estate documents (including any mortgage and deed) because the recording office is not accepting documents, Stewart will insure the title if the conditions outlined below and in the National Bulletin are met:

1. The land is not registered (applicable to MASSACHUSETTS property ONLY).

2. Proper execution of a Title Affidavit, sometimes referred to as an Owner’s/Borrower’s Affidavit or Mechanic Lien/Parties in Possession Affidavit containing the following gap indemnity language:

“That in consideration of Stewart Title Guaranty Company’s (the “Company”) issuance of its policy or policies effective as of the date closing occurs without taking exception therein for matters which may arise between the date of [INSERT DATE OF REGISTRY CLOSURE] and the date the documents creating the interest being insured have been filed for record, and which matters may constitute an encumbrance on or affect said title, the undersigned agrees to promptly defend, remove, bond or otherwise dispose of any encumbrance, lien, or objectionable matter of title which may arise or be filed, as the case may be, against the captioned premises during the period of time between the date of its commitment to issue its policy of title insurance and the date of recording of all closing instruments, and to hold harmless and indemnify the Company and its agent against all expenses, costs and attorney’s fees, which may arise out of the failure to so remove, bond or otherwise dispose of any said liens, encumbrances or objectionable matters. Further, the undersigned shall be liable for all expenses, costs and attorney fees which may be incurred in the enforcement of this agreement.”

A Modified Title Affidavit with the added language is accessible by clicking this link. (Note: This Affidavit may be used in lieu of the GAP Indemnity referred to in the National Bulletin.)

3. The Date and Time of the policy shall be the disbursement of funds.

4. Upon re-opening of a closed recording office, an agent who issues a policy of title insurance pursuant to this Bulletin, shall promptly record all vesting documents and documents set forth in Schedule B, Section 1 (Requirements) of the applicable Commitment and run down title. In the event an adverse matter is discovered in the run-down, the agent shall immediately notify the local Stewart underwriter.

Lastly, as a reminder, if the transaction involves Massachusetts property and falls within the parameters requiring you to certify title under M.G.L. chapter 93 section 70, and due to a registry closure you are unable to search records prior to recording, the certification should note that it is subject to those matters recorded within the specified gap period.

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

Massachusetts:     massuwing@stewart.com
Rhode Island:        Shannon Coleman at scoleman@stewart.com
                              Paula Cuculo at paula.cuculo@stewart.com
Vermont:                Jill Spinelli at jill.spinelli@stewart.com

For online 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.

References

Bulletins Replaced:
None
Related Bulletins:
None
Underwriting Manual:
None
Exceptions Manual:
None
Forms:
None