When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and stay-at-home orders were passed, businesses were scrambling to figure out how to proceed with their transactions given the restrictions placed on in-person contact. This included the title and closing business. Some states had remote online notarization (RON) laws in place and some did not. Some registrars and clerks had electronic recording (e-recording) in place and some did not. Title underwriters had to find solutions that fit all 50 states so that their agents could continue insuring sales and refinances, closing purchase and loan transactions, and recording documents.
Many state governors and other state bodies issued temporary executive orders or other temporary authorizations:
1. Allowing for the use of real-time audio/video technology to satisfy the physical presence requirements under applicable law for notarial acts or
2. Removing the requirements for physical presence under applicable law for notarial acts (each a “remote ink-signed notarization” or “RIN”).
RON was put into the spotlight and RIN was created. You may have heard of RON, but what is RIN and what is the difference between the two?
Remote Online Notarization (RON)
The MBA defines remote online notarization (RON) as “the use of audio/video technology to complete a notarial act when the principal is not in the same physical location as the notary public.” Virginia was the first state to enact a law authorizing RON in 2011. Since then, more than 12 states now have passed statutes allowing RON, with many more in the process of doing so.
With remote notarization, a signer personally appears before the Notary at the time of the notarization using audio-visual technology over the internet instead of being physically present in the same room. Remote online notarization is also called webcam notarization, online notarization, or virtual notarization.
Remote Ink Notarization (RIN)
During periods of state and local stay-at-home restrictions, several states issued emergency Executive Orders or passed temporary emergency legislation authorizing an abridged form of remote notarization that involved wet ink signatures placed on paper documents while a notary in a remote location watched the signor via some form of audio/video technology like Skype or FaceTime (“RIN”). Those Executive Orders and temporary laws are in varying stages - expiring in some states and continuing for the duration of a state of emergency in others.
A typical RIN signing may look like the following:
- Paper closing package is delivered to the borrower;
- Notary examines a government-issued photo identification using the audio/video technology;
- Notary uses the audio-visual technology to witness the borrower ink sign the document;
- Borrower returns the document to the notary (via postal mail, delivery service or in person); and
- Upon receipt of the package, the notary physically applies his/her notarial seal or stamp to the loan documents.
A RIN can be distinguished from a “remote online notarization” or “RON,” in which the notarial documents are being signed and tamper-sealed electronically, with the notarial seal being applied electronically.
While RON closings will continue to proceed as authorized in various states, even after the passing of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no expectation that the governors’ executive orders and temporary authorizations related to RIN will extend beyond the COVID-19 national emergency.