States Seek Electronic Notarization During Pandemic
Update (April 4, 2020): Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed this bill into law on April 30, 2020.
With many states issuing stay at home orders, most businesses have been forced to close. While notaries have been deemed as “essential services”, many people are avoiding situations that don’t involve social distancing. Currently 23 states have legislation enacted that allows for remote electronic notarization services.
The Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization (SECURE Notarization) Act was introduced in mid-March, in the U.S. Senate, to allow notary publics to perform remote electronic notarizations across the U.S. The National Association of REALTORS® is urging Congress to move swiftly on the SECURE Notarization Act. This legislation has not had much action. As such, individual states have taken matters into their own hands.
Recently, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order allowing virtual notarizations. This move was necessary for real estate transactions. As reported by Forbes, real estate closings were still happening virtually, but this order cleared up any questions surrounding the acceptance of e-notaries.
Arkansas enacted legislation on March 30, also as a direct response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. As part of the overall emergency response legislation, the state has suspended all in-person notarizations.
Also in March, Alaska REALTORS® took advantage of an opportunity to make a difference in this area.
The state legislature introduced a bill, known as the Electronic Documents and Notarization Act (HB124), that would allow REALTORS® to conduct this vital part of their business remotely. It was important to show the state House of Representatives that this act had strong support from an important sector of the state’s economy.
In order to do this, the Alaska Association of REALTORS® set up a call for action (CFA), through their Advocacy Everywhere program, and saw strong support among its members.
A CFA is a useful tool that allows members of the community to contact their elected officials on matters pertaining to real estate, private property rights, homeownership, and so much more.
When state and local officials are looking to pass laws that make it harder for homeowners and homebuyers to succeed, a CFA is sent out to rally the community to contact those officials and let them know their displeasure. On the flip side, when legislation comes up that makes life easier for homeowners and homebuyers, a CFA can let elected officials know these measures are supported.
In this case, the Alaska Association of REALTORS® sent out emails and text alerts to each of their members in the state.
As a result, more than 200 REALTORS® contacted their state representative, and the act passed the state house with no votes of opposition, making this an advocacy success story. The Governor signed the bill on April 30th.
Currently, there are 32 states with executive orders allowing for Remote Notaries during the COVID-19 crisis, including Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, and Texas. Click here for a full list of states with Executive Orders (report put together for NAR by FOCUS).
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