Bulletin: MA2021003

Date:
June 18, 2021
To:
All Massachusetts Issuing Offices
RE:
UNDERWRITING - Termination of COVID-19 State of Emergency; Extension of Virtual Notarization; Timeline for Response to Municipal Options to Purchase under Chapters 61, 61A and 61B

Dear Associates:

On June 10, 2021, we issued Bulletin MA2021002 regarding the termination of the COVID-19 State of Emergency and its impact on Virtual Notarizations and the Timeline for Response to Municipal Options to Purchase under Chapters 61, 61A, and 61B. On June 15, 2021, Governor Baker signed into law an act extending certain measures adopted during the state of emergency, which includes an extension to the virtual notarization legislation contained in Chapter 71 of the Acts of 2020. This Bulletin REPLACES Bulletin MA2021002 in its entirety, and Bulletin MA2021002 is rescinded effective immediately.

During the COVID-19 State of Emergency, Massachusetts attorneys and paralegals were authorized to take acknowledgements using virtual notarization or remote ink notarization (“RIN”) under Chapter 71 of the Acts of 2020, “An Act Providing for Virtual Notarization to Address Challenges Related to COVID-19.” (“Chapter 71”). Chapter 71 contained a provision stating that it would be repealed 3 business days after the termination of the state of emergency, which would have meant that virtual acknowledgements/RIN would no longer be valid in Massachusetts as of June 18, 2021. On June 15, 2021, the Governor signed into law various measures that were put in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the measures extended was Chapter 71. The new law states that Chapter 71 will be repealed effective December 15, 2021.

Therefore, Stewart policy-issuing agents in Massachusetts may continue to use assistive audio-video technologies to notarize documents, provided they comply with the requirements set forth in Bulletins MA2020004 and MA2020006. Further, the limitation on the effective period of the authorizations in those Bulletins are hereby updated to extend through December 15, 2021. As a reminder, “Remote Online Notarization” or “RON” is not authorized in Massachusetts, and Stewart’s National Bulletin SLS2020004 does not apply to Massachusetts transactions.

The termination of the State of Emergency also impacted properties taxed under Chapter 61, 61A and 61B. On April 3, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19.” The Act is designated as Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 (“Chapter 53”) and includes a provision suspending the period of time for municipalities to respond to a notice of intent to sell for, or convert to, residential, industrial or commercial use any property which is taxed under Chapters 61, 61A or 61B. In response, Stewart issued Bulletin MA2020002.

The Act continues to be in effect for a period of 90 days after the termination of the State of Emergency. As a result, Bulletin MA2020002 will expire effective September 13, 2021.

While Bulletin MA2020002 will expire on September 13, 2021, keep in mind that you may not rely on the expiration of the 120-day period for a municipality to respond to a notice of intent to sell or convert if such expiration would occur after March 10, 2020. Therefore, you may not insure properties which are currently taxed under Chapters 61, 61A or 61B (or have been taxed under one of those Chapters within the preceding one-year period) if the notice of intent to sell or convert was sent to the municipality between November 10, 2019 (120 days prior to the declaration of the State of Emergency) and September 13, 2021, unless a notice of non-exercise of the option by the municipality has been recorded at the Registry of Deeds, or the 120-day time period, as extended by the Act, has expired as set forth below.

If the notice was sent on or after November 10, 2019, but prior to March 10, 2020, you must calculate the number of days left in the 120-day period and add those days to September 13, 2021. As an example, if the notice was sent on December 18, 2019, the new deadline for the municipality to respond would be October 21, 2021, calculated as follows: as of March 10, 2020, the remaining time period for the municipality to respond would have been 38 days; adding 38 days to September 13, 2021 results in a new date of October 21, 2021.

If the notice was sent during the State of Emergency and prior to the expiration of Chapter 53 (i.e., March 10, 2020 through September 13, 2021), the 120-day period for the municipality to respond will start running on September 13, 2021.

If you have any questions relating to this or other bulletins, please contact your Massachusetts Underwriting team at massuwing@stewart.com or 1-800-628-2988.

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.

References

Bulletins Replaced:
MA2021002 UNDERWRITING - Termination of COVID-19 State of Emergency; Impact on Virtual Notarization and Timeline for Response to Municipal Options to Purchase under Chapters 61, 61A and 61B
Related Bulletins:
MA2020002 UNDERWRITING - Municipal Options to Purchase under Chapters 61, 61A and 61B
 
MA2020006 UNDERWRITING - Permissible Methods of Notarization for Massachusetts Transactions
 
SLS2020004 UNDERWRITING - Remote Online Notarization
Underwriting Manual:
None
Exceptions Manual:
None
Forms:
None