March 2020
CATIC Title & New Jersey:
Open For Business

It is week three of operations under the COVID-19 restrictions. Worst fears and nightmare scenarios in the search and recording arenas did not materialize. In fact, search and recording abilities have continued in all 21 New Jersey counties, with only minimal interruptions. While some office closings and personnel absences have resulted in limited unavailability of certain specific searches, most closings are able to proceed without title being impacted. The New Jersey Land Title Association is maintaining current information on the status of the 21 NJ County recording offices.   

The New Jersey office of CATIC Title has issued Agent Alerts on March 16 , March 20, and March 23 providing underwriting guidance and guidelines. We are not requiring the use of GAP indemnities in NJ nor special affidavits for most refinances and conveyance transactions. Those agents conducting in-person closings should be following all CDC guidelines pertaining to the control of the spread of the virus.   

Agent Alert Links

Title Insurance Is An Essential Business:
NJ Executive Orders Seek to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy has signed six Executive Orders addressing the COVID-19 crisis. The Orders are linked below. Although a stay-at-home Order affects most New Jersey residents, essential services have been provided for, allowing the continuation of real estate closing and settlement services. The Orders are re-capped below:

Executive Order 102  - signed February 3, 2020 – After the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” on January 30, 2020, NJ Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 102 establishing the Coronavirus Taskforce [CTF] charged with coordinating all state efforts to appropriately prepare for and respond to the public health hazard posed by the virus.

Executive Order 103 - signed March 9, 2020 – As a part of the state’s coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak, Governor Murphy declared a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency to ramp up New Jersey’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 across all 21 New Jersey counties, allowing state agencies and departments to utilize state resources to assist affected communities. The declaration empowered all state agencies, including the Departments of Banking and Insurance, Health, Human Services, and the Civil Service Commission to take all appropriate steps to address the public health hazard.

Executive Order 104 - signed March 16, 2020 – Implemented aggressive social distancing measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus by closing all schools, both public and private, as well as movie theatres, gyms, casinos, and performing arts centers; by placing limitations on operations of non-essential retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses; and by limiting restaurants to take-out and delivery only. 

Executive Order 105 - signed March 19, 2020 – Addressed local election procedures during the health emergency to ensure that New Jersey voters are able to safely exercise their right to vote and be engaged in our democracy, by delaying filing and election dates and providing for vote-by mail ballots.

Executive Order 106  - signed March 19, 2020 – Declared a moratorium on removing individuals from residential property as a result of eviction or foreclosure proceedings during the public health crisis. While proceedings may be filed or continued, enforcement of judgments of possession, warrants of removal, and writs of possession have all been stayed. 

Executive Order 107 - signed March 21, 2020 – Expanded and clarified Executive Order 104 requiring all NJ residents to remain at home unless they are obtaining goods and services from essential retail businesses; obtaining food; seeking medical attention or assistance from law enforcement; visiting family or others where a close personal relationship exists; or reporting to or performing their job. The Order requires social distancing whenever practicable and lists in detail “essential retail businesses” which specifically include the retail functions of banks and other financial institutions, allowing the real estate and title insurance industries to continue operations under CDC guidelines for distancing, cleanliness, and sanitary and safety measures.   

Immediate Answers - Innovative Solutions

There is a difference. For some, the main concern isn’t the real estate professional, the transaction itself, or the best interests of the homeowner, the buyer, or the seller. Some may focus more on direct operations, shareholder dividends, or ways to undermine the competition. That’s not us. At CATIC Title, the difference is our support of the transaction and getting to the “yes.” Those who are working with us already know what we mean.

We added to staff at the end of February, bringing Jeff Grabowski, Esq., on board in NJ as an additional counsel. His practical experience as both a transactional real estate practitioner and active commercial and real estate litigator adds a fresh dimension to our commonsense approach to problem solving. We look forward to everyone meeting Jeff once the time of aggressive social distancing is behind us, but Jeff is on the job working with Larry Bell in addressing any issues or concerns of our agents, attorneys, brokers, and friends.

Now more than ever, immediate responses are instrumental in keeping transactions moving toward settlement. “Let no closing be impacted or delayed” is our motto in addressing COVID-19 effects, unless absolutely necessary. Our underwriting group e-mail address was established to ensure that an immediate response is provided. Give it a try.  

Of course cell phone numbers can always be used: Larry Bell at 201-213-0401 or Jeff at 732-343-3208. The full resources of CATIC Title, including Jeff and Larry, are available 24/7. We are anxious to assist in getting deals closed and navigating business operations during these interesting times and forever after. 

New Jersey Legislature Considers Legislation for the Use of Remote Notarization
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many state leaders and title professionals are looking for a solution to enable real estate transactions to continue to close. Such solutions include emergency rules, executive orders, and legislation to permit the use of remote notarization in the state. Under such emergency legislation, New Jersey’s legislature has proposed two bills that upon adoption would authorize the use of audio-video technology to conduct a notarization. Although not yet enacted in New Jersey, progress is being made in the effort to allow remote on-line notarization.

NJ A3864 has been passed by the New Jersey General Assembly and Senate and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature. As currently written, the bill would become effective 90 days following enactment. NJ A3903 has been passed by the General Assembly but the Senate has yet to schedule a session to consider the bill. The New Jersey State Office of CATIC Title will issue a bulletin advising of any changes in the status of the pending remote notary legislation and the adoption and implementation of audio-visual communication technology for the acknowledgement of real estate documents in NJ. 

Under the terms of NJ A3864 , a notary may attest to signatures using communication technology under the following conditions:

  • The notary must be physically present in New Jersey at the time of the notarization;
  • The signer and the notary must be able to communicate simultaneously by sight and sound through an electronic device or process in real time during the notarization;
  • The notary has identified the signer through:
  • Personal knowledge of the individual;
  • Oath or affirmation of a credible witness; or
  • At least two different processes or services that provide the notary with the means to verify the signer’s identity through a review of personal information from public or private data sources; and
  • The notary is reasonably able to determine that the record before the notary is the same record executed by the signer.

For any notarization conducted using communication technology, the notary must indicate such method on the notarial certificate. The notary must also record the notarial act and retain such recording for at least ten (10) years. NJ A3864 would not permit the use of remote notarization to execute wills or codicils, among other documents. 

The New Jersey Legislature has also proposed A3903 , which would allow for the use of remote notarization for the duration of the State of Emergency as declared by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in Executive Order 103 of 2020. This proposed legislation would allow for the use of communication technology to conduct a notarization under similar conditions as NJ A3864, though with some additional means of verifying the signer’s identity, including:

  • A passport, driver’s license, or government issued nondriver identification card, which is current or expired not more than three years before performance of the notarial act; or
  • Another form of government identification issued to an individual, which is current or expired not more than three years before performance of the notarial act, contains the signature or a photograph of the individual, and is satisfactory to the notary.

As is also required under NJ A3864, the notary must indicate in the notarial certificate that the notarization was conducted remotely, and the notary must record and retain the recording of the notarial act for ten (10) years. NJ A3903 would also not apply to the execution of wills or codicils, among other documents.

Both NJ A3864 and NJ A3903 would also permit the use of communication technology to notarize a document for an individual located outside the United States, so long as:

  • The record is to be filed with or relates to a matter before a public official or court, governmental entity, or other entity subject to the jurisdiction of the United States; or
  • The record involves property located in the territorial jurisdiction of the United States or involves a transaction substantially connected with the United States; and
  • The act of making the statement or signing the record is not prohibited by the foreign state in which the remotely located individual is located.

SBA Resources For Small Businesses

While we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best, the Small Business Administration is actively marketing the availability of financial relief. “Our small businesses are the economic engines of their communities, and the SBA is ready to provide them with the support they need to remain open and keep their workers employed. With our whole-of-government approach led by the President, we are providing small businesses with the resources they need to get them through this unprecedented time,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza upon the signing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law.

In addition to COVID-19 Disaster Loan Assistance under a streamlined process , an Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program Guide has been issued as of March 25, 2020.

A good review of the guidelines and available programs is contained in this March 29 th Forbes article . Additional Federal and State financial aid programs may become available in the coming months. While we hope that the need does not become prevalent, it’s good to know that help is available.

About The CATIC Title Courier

The CATIC Title Courier is published by the New Jersey State Office of CATIC Title Insurance Company. The Courier is intended to provide interesting, relevant, and informative articles and information to our agents, attorneys, agent prospects, industry partners, and our CATIC Title friends.  You are receiving this newsletter because we believe you fall into one of these categories. 

We are happy to provide the March 2020 edition of The CATIC Title Courier: Different news and information from a different kind of title underwriter. Comments, feedback or suggestions for future content are welcome! See what full-time title agent and attorney support looks like!