Bulletin: NY000655

Date:
March 05, 2021
To:
All New York State Agents, Office Counsel, and Managers
RE:
COVID-19: Updates- One Year On

March 7 marks once year since the Governor’s first Executive Order in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in New York State.  Since that time, we have worked together through and around the practical and official restrictions which stood in our path.  Whether obtaining information, gaining access to courthouses and filing offices, conducting closings, the industry generally adapted remarkably to this unprecedented year in its history, taking care of our clients while also taking care of our staff and our families. We thank all of you for your extraordinary efforts.

Herein, we hope to highlight the key underwriting issues arising from the remaining COVID restrictions, provide some guidance, and as always, invite you to call our staff for assistance.  We are here and we are willing to help in any way we can.

So, without further ado, please be sure to remain aware of the following:

  • First, please take a moment to review NY000651, the current version of our annual bulletin which highlights key and high-risk underwriting issues, regardless of COVID.
  • Are the offices in which you need to search, record and file fully open?  If not, what are the alternative methods for performing each of these functions?   We are staying abreast of the alternatives.  For example, the electronic filing of Building Loan Agreements recently became available in certain NYC Counties.  See also, NY000637aNY000640.
  • Though the official tolling of the statutes of limitations came to an end on November 3, 2020 (see, Executive Order 202.67), there remain moratoria and other restrictions on select types of litigation, including foreclosures.  Thus, files which involve litigation, liens and other objections to title which require a time computation, have grown increasingly difficult to evaluate, and our fear is that items on the cusp of expiration may be missed.  Thus, STIC is recommending that search periods for judgments and liens be extended to ten (10) years prior to March 1, 2020.  This will allow our searches to “capture” those judgments and liens for which the expiration may have been extended by the COVID rules.  Any returns must be viewed very carefully, and if necessary, in consultation with STIC counsel.
  • With regard to reviewing lien and judgment returns, you are reminded of our recent bulletin regarding judgments, NY000653.
  • Access to and efficiency at City of Mount Vernon remains difficult, which heightens our scrutiny with respect to transactions in that municipality, as expressed in Bulletin NY000644.
  • Many Surrogates’ offices remain closed or have limited access.  See bulletin NY000638.
  • Pursuant to the most recent Executive Orders, as of this writing, at least until March 28, 2021 A/V assisted notary is available in the State of New York.  NY000641a.
  • While construction financing has always had its challenges, we must be hyper-aware of the increased challenges brought about by COVID.  These include access to filing offices for Building Loan Agreements, Mechanic’s Liens, and the Bonding of same.  This also affects our substantive underwriting, as affected by equity in the premises, structure of the financing, etc.

Thank you for your continued attention to these bulletins and of course, for your business.  We look forward to a return to normalcy, and a renewed, vibrant real estate economy in the State of New York.

In the event you have any questions regarding the above please contact Stewart Title Legal Department at 212-922-0050 and speak with any Underwriting Counsel.

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.