President's Message

Katherine Crawford, Esq.
VLTA President, 2017-2018
First American Title Insurance Company

 

June 2017

VLTA Presidential Acceptance Address

I would like to start by thanking Glenda for her time and dedication to the board, and the association as a whole.  Under her leadership, our membership grew to the highest level ever.  We put on 7 live events all over the state which provided a total of 30 live hours of educational content to 680 attendees.  Our Virginia Land Title Institute provided 1392 online credit hours to 459 students.  

Her decisiveness allowed the board to continue moving in the right direction and remain focused on the goals of our strategic plan.  I am personally grateful for the example she has set for me for the coming year.

I find myself in a familiar situation tonight.  That is, standing behind a podium in front of a room full of my peers who are hanging on my every word just waiting for me to impart great pearls of wisdom. 

In the last almost 2 decades I have stood before you countless times to education you all on dozens of different title related topics.  But tonight is a little different.  First off….you won’t be getting any credits for listening to me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still expect you to hang on my every word.

But my goal is actually still the same as it is when I am presenting seminar material.  I want to educate you.  I want to educate you on the value that each one of you has to our industry and association.  I want to show you the importance of sharing your time and talent with VLTA.

We are often asked to commit our time and talents to many different worthy causes.  There is never a shortage of folks around us with their hand extended looking for an able and willing mind or body to lend their time and talent.  Whether it is a request to help coach little league or serve on the stewardship committee of your church, it can often feel like everyone wants a piece of your time.

My goal tonight and for the next year is to show you the value of your time and talents and why you should invest them in our association. 

It may sound and feel like a worn-out adage, but our association, dare I say, even our industry is only as strong as our weakest link.  That weak link is complacency and lack of involvement.  We all face many of the same challenges no matter what piece of the puzzle we help solve:

How do I do more with the same or perhaps even less resources?

How do I stay abreast of the latest trends, available technology, changes in the law and changes in the business and regulatory climate?

Many of us in this room are competitors when we are outside of these four walls.  However, we are also teammates when it comes to addressing these and many other important issues.  We all actively work together to better this association and our industry as a whole.  That does not mean we lose our individual identity or competitive edge by actively participating in this association.  In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.  When we all actively participate and lend our time, talents and resources, we all benefit.  The customers and clients we work for all benefit by doing business with a better educated and informed industry participant. 

Now, I fully realize that to a large degree, I am really just preaching to the choir and loyal followers of our flock.  (Don’t worry, I am not going to break out in song…I will spare you that experience.)  Yet there is value in reminding all of us that we are in fact teammates.  We all want our association to win and be the best version of our collective selves as possible.  However, in order to be the best, we all need to lean in.

 So I stand before you tonight and ask you to lean in.  Regardless of whether you are new to our industry or a 20 year seasoned veteran, join a committee that interests you. 

Perhaps you were in charge of your office’s annual Christmas party.  The events committee could benefit from the experience that gave you.

If you write the blog for your company’s website, the Examiner would really benefit from your proofing skills.

If you just did research on an interesting topic for a seminar or just to further your own understanding of the issue, considering writing a brief article for our newsletter.

If you are tech savvy or excel at marketing, consider working with the communications committee.

My point is…..yes, I do have a point.  My point is that each and every single one of you sitting in this rooms possesses a wealth of industry knowledge and has valuable skill sets that our association needs to harness in order to continue the great work that we do.

It is no accident that the Virginia Land Title Association is regarded as one of the most active and successful land title associations in the country. 

As I outlined earlier, we have accomplished a great deal in the last few years and folks all over the country have taken notice of this and consistently seek our guidance and ask us ‘how did you do that?’

The answer is so simple…..our members and volunteers.  You all are the how and the why behind our tremendous success.

But make no mistake, this is not the time to take our foot off the gas.  On the contrary, it is the time to push forward with new initiatives and continue our education efforts.  But in order to do that, I ask each of you to lean in just a little bit further.  Share your talents and your time with us.  Get involved.

This is our chosen profession.  We owe it to ourselves to continue to make our industry association as strong and prominent as possible.  By doing so, we all benefit.  Steve Day mentioned this earlier today…We have a great story to tell and we need all of you to help us go out and tell it.

So get involved, share your talents.

I look forward to working with each of you in the coming year.  Thank you.

-Katherine Crawford


 

Glenda BrooksGlenda Brooks, VCTE, VCTSA
VLTA President 2016-2017
Middlesex Title Company

May 2017

May is upon us and the weather is warming up nicely. Our upcoming 2017 Convention will be June 1st through June 3rd at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Virginia and will be as entertaining and educational as always.  The theme is “Roaring Twenties” and feel free to dress the era.  We have great speakers, good food and fun to be had.  This is an opportunity for you to renew friendships with those you probably only see once a year.  It also gives you the opportunity to network, make new friends and possible work connections for the future. We will be presenting the slate of officers for the 2017-2018 Board soon, and will be voted on prior to the Convention, where you will be able to meet them and watch their induction into the Board.  We encourage you to vote because you as members, are the roots and the backbone of our organization. The Board has worked very hard this year, as always, and each and every one of them were an asset in their own way to the Board. We strive to keep our members updated on all issues concerning the title industry and also provide easy access to education.  We continue to endeavor to come up with value for our members in not only education but what is going on in the title industry.  We encourage each and every one of you to share any ideas you might have, concerns, etc. so that we can address the issues, if any.  Feel free to join a committee, write an article for the Examiner or encourage those who are not members to join “our title family”. See you at convention. “Come togged to the bricks”.

Glenda Brooks, VCTE, VCTSA | VLTA President 2016-2017

April 2017

It is April already and the 2017-2018 Biennium began January 4, 2017. Resident agents should be mindful that they need to complete all their required courses and pay the $20.00 fee by November 30, 2018. If you hold a license being resident or nonresident in the areas of title insurance or title settlement agent you must complete the CE requirements. If you fail to complete your CE requirements your license will be terminated and you can wait 90 days to apply again or pay a $1,000.00 penalty. You will have to pass a preliminary pre-licensing examination and provide the Bureau with your criminal record that can be obtained from the Virginia State Policy and must be no older than 90 days. 16 credits are required if one holds a single license. In the case of holding two licenses, one must complete 24 credits with at least 8 for each license. You must also include 2 credits in law and regs and no more that 75% of your requirements for the current biennium should be from company or agency-sponsored courses. Typically, your credits will be reported to Pearson VUE within 30 days by CE sponsors and after that 30-day period you can go on line at here and click on Review CE Transcripts. Your continuance fees must be paid before the credits can be posted. If at all possible, you should get and retain certificates of courses taken in case a discrepancy arises. This may sound like doom and gloom, but VLTA has a wealth of availability for you to be able to complete your credits in a timely fashion. It is truly that easy. Spring is upon us and this month is Easter and we should take the time to be thankful for all we have. God Bless all, and I hope you have an eggstra Happy Easter!

Glenda Brooks, VCTE, VCTSA | VLTA President 2016-2017

March 2017

Circuit Court Recorders play an essential role in our industry.  Their connection to the processes in record rooms and Clerks’ Offices is an indispensable resource.  Occasionally we encounter issues with procedures or software in the record room or Clerk’s Office, and we strongly encourage agents, examiners, and especially recorders to share information about any glitches or concerns with VLTA. We hope to pass on this information to all of our members.  VLTA’s primary concern is keeping members up to date and informed in every area that affects the title industry.  If you have news or information you would like to share with your fellow members, please email us at vlta@vlta.org.  In closing I thought I would share some St. Patrick’s Day tid-bits with you which have absolutely nothing to do with the title industry but might be of interest to you if you have kissed the Blarney Stone.  St. Patrick was born in Wales in 385 AD.  His real name was Maewyn.  He died on March 17, 461 AD and ever since then that day has been celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day.  We associate this holiday with green and yet St. Patrick’s color was actually blue, and to-boot he was not even Irish.  Only fairies and immortals wore green to encourage crops to grow.  It was once said “A Best friend is like a four leaf clover, hard to find, but lucky to have.  HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY TO ALL.

Glenda Brooks, VCTE, VCTSA | VLTA President 2016-2017

February 2017

Hello all!  The Bureau of Insurance recently received inquiries about giving free home warranties or other things of value in exchange for settlement services.  This applies to all licensed Title Insurance Agents, Agencies and companies that are Registered Settlement Agents.  This can include home warranties, home inspections, etc.  “Virginia law prohibits the practice of rebating, which occurs when an insurer or agent offers an inducement to purchase an insurance policy that is not specified in the policy or included in it rating plan.”[1]  We must be mindful of this issue at all times.  It has been unclear as to why this issue has raised its ugly head again, but to be on the safe side consider the consequences of this practice and make changes, if necessary, to your practices.  If you have any questions contact your underwriter or read the Code Section dealing with this issue.  You can go to Virginia Code Sec.38.2-509, et seq. of the Code of Virginia.  HAPPY VALENTINES DAY TO ALL.  MAKE SOMEONE SPECIAL SMILE.

Glenda Brooks, VCTE, VCTSA | VLTA President 2016-2017

[1] 1Bureau Administrative Letter 1991-6 & Letter of January 4, 2017

January 2017

Happy New Year to all! Hope your holiday season was just grand. It is now 2017 and a brand new year is beginning. How many of you have made New Year’s resolutions and hope to keep them? I was reading a few New Year’s Quotes and would like to share some of them with you. “Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits” – Anonymous.  “It wouldn’t be New Year’s if I didn’t have regrets” – William Thomas.   “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other” – Anonymous. It is also time to look back on our family, old friends and acquaintances and be grateful and thankful for all. As I look back on 2016, I am honored to be President of VLTA and look forward to the remaining of my 2016-2017 office. It was a good year.  New education was introduced and still more to come, membership doubled and lots of other exciting happenings in the life of VLTA. If you chose to, or have not already and would like to become an All-Inclusive Member, you get free online education, free attendance at all regional events, networking opportunities, free job postings, 50% off Convention, and other great perks. Now that 2017 is here, let us see if we can’t make more wonderful things happen at VLTA. Be active in your membership, encourage others to join, share new ideas, join committees, and send in articles or ideas for the Examiner magazine. Let’s make 2017 great together! 

Glenda Brooks, VCTE, VCTSA | VLTA President 2016-2017

December 2016

Hello! It is hard to believe that the end of 2016 is upon us.  There is excitement in the air about the holidays.  It is the time of the year for family, friends and loved ones to get together and celebrate.  It is also a time to look back on our accomplishments for the past year.  VLTA has a lot to celebrate this year in providing informative and updated news and education for its members, and is very proud of the increase in its growth in membership.  The Board of Directors and our Executive Director have worked countless hours making decisions that would benefit members, and we greatly appreciate all of their hard work.  Let us charge forward into 2017 like a “bull in a china shop” and continue our challenge to inspire, educate and provide even more resources for members.  As the Carpenters sang “we’ve only just begun”.  Your Board of Directors and our Executive Director are always here to help, so don’t ever hesitate to contact one of us with any comments or suggestions you may have, we welcome them!  If you feel so inspired, join a committee, give back what has served you well.  Have a wonderful Holiday!

Glenda Brooks

Holiday Wishes from your ecstatic Board of Directors

At the end of 2015, VLTA shared warm holiday wishes with about 1,500 members across 196 companies. We’re proud to announce that in 2016, we’ll be saying, “Happy Holidays” to over 5,600 members across 390 companies. That’s right – in just one year, we’ve almost quadrupled our rolls and doubled our company members. Why are so many companies flocking to VLTA? Perhaps it’s the wealth of perks available with our all-inclusive membership package – FREE online education, FREE regional events, and so much more! Or maybe you’ve enjoyed the leadership of our incredible group of volunteers, who encourage representation of the title industry at all levels of government, protecting your industry interests every day. Either way, we’re happy you’ve joined, and we hope you will let us continue to serve you and our industry in 2017. Be sure to renew your membership at www.vlta.org before December 31st to save $25 on your dues. Consider making a donation to our PAC fund to help support our state industry’s political influence.

Birth announcement

VLTA is happy to announce the birth of future dirt lawyer, Charlotte Herndon, born to our Executive Director and her family on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 at 9:38 p.m., weighing 4lbs. 4oz., and measuring 18 inches. Both Charlotte and Katie are recovering well. Please be patient with our office as Katie returns to work on 12/5. Phone hours will be reduced temporarily to 9am-1pm through February.

November 2016

Happy Falloween to all!  I trust everyone enjoyed celebrating one of my favorite holidays – even if it was on a Monday this year.  The weather sure did get cold for the kiddies to trick or treat!  Speaking of treat, I was fortunate to be able to attend ALTA’s convention in Scottsdale Arizona October 3-7th and it was truly a treat.  This was my first ALTA convention and I highly recommend attending one if you can.  The sessions were numerous and some were only 30 minutes so that you could attend more sessions.  After each session the speakers went to what they called a “juice bar” (where you charge your electronics) and they would answer any questions you might have. Of all the sessions that I attended I thoroughly enjoyed the one on “How Title Insurance Protects All Homebuyers”.  They talked about the types, common risks and reasons to purchase owner’s title insurance.  It is important that we relay to our customers the importance of owner’s title insurance. A title search does not always reflect hidden threats. Title insurance is a policy that protects your investment and property rights and helps you sleep at night.  If you want to read more information on title insurance log on to homeclosing101.org.

Glenda Brooks

October 2016

The month of October is upon us.  Before you know it November will be here to usher in the 2016 election. This election may have a substantial impact on the housing market (read more in Time) but VLTA and ALTA stand at the ready to propose and vet legislation that may cause lasting changes for our Virginia businesses. Have you ever wondered how VLTA’S Legislative Committee represents our industry? 

Beginning in May of each year, the Legislative Committee meets to form an agenda of action items for legislative initiatives. These proposals are vetted by our committee, our lobbyist, our members, our Board of Directors, and other stakeholders. By November, those proposals still standing are sent for drafting and re-drafting, and ultimately sponsorship and introduction on the floor of the Virginia State legislature.  The committee continues to meet monthly through the winter to vet legislation proposed by other parties to determine if VLTA should comment on, oppose, or support bills being sent to the floor. 

In addition to proposing and reviewing pending legislation, the committee sends representatives to the Virginia Bureau of Insurance, Virginia Housing Commission, Virginia Insurance Continuing Education Board, and other regulatory partners to ensure the interests of the land title industry are adequately represented. Most recently, VLTA partnered with the Bureau of Insurance to carefully review the proposed changes to the Rules Governing Settlement Agents.

The Legislative Committee is a vital organ to the growth of our industry and VLTA.

Glenda Brooks

September 2016

Happy Fall!  Where has the summer gone?  Kids are back in school and life goes on – but the work never ends! Do you still need credits? No matter what type of credits you need, VLTA is your resource. Take a moment to review the guidelines for your license or certification type below, and see the numerous ways you can earn credits at live events and online.  


CONTINUING EDUCATION DEADLINES  

Attorneys 10/31/2016
Title Insurance Agents 11/30/2016
VCTE 12/31/2016
VCTSA 12/31/2016


LIVE EVENTS – VLTA REGIONALS


VLTA has 4 more regional events in 2016.  Be sure to join us for these streamlined events to earn the credits you need, and remember, these events are FREE to all-inclusive members! Learn more on page 5 of this month’s newsletter or online at www.vlta.org/regional-events.  Don’t let your license expire because of lack of credit.  A wealth of resources is right at your fingertips.  Make a plan and GO FOR IT BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!

Glenda Brooks

August 2016

Still need credits? The clock is ticking, but don’t worry. You can earn credits quickly and conveniently with VLTA. VLTA offers Continuing Education (CE) credits for licensed title insurance agents, MCLE credits for settlement attorneys, certification credits for Title Examiners (VCTE), credits for Title Settlement Agents (VCTSA) – the full spectrum of continuing education credits! Earn credits online at the Virginia Land Title Institute or attend one of our LIVE events later this year in September (Herndon), October (Lynchburg), and November (Fairfax & Fredericksburg). VCTEs will also have the option to complete credits via mail using DVDs beginning in late August. The options are numerous – complete your continuing education from the convenience of your laptop, tablet, phone, or in person.

Have questions about completing credits or checking your transcript? Contact our office for more information at (571) 494-1782 and we’ll be happy to walk you through all the details.

Glenda Brooks 

July 2106

Greetings! The 2016 VLTA Convention was a great success with over 200 attendees and fun was had by all. The theme was “Hollywood” and many attendees chose to dress in costume. They were all great costumes. The costume contest winners were Fred and Wilma Flintstone (in real life Mike & Bella Trowbridge). Congratulations Fred & Wilma. They played the part quite well and looked so real you might have thought you were in Bedrock! The education sessions were very informative and interesting. The Sessions were filled with Agents, Underwriters, and Attorneys. We have put another year under our belt and have again come a long way. As our Past President, Kevin Pogoda detailed for us in his message in the June Newsletter, our membership is the biggest since VLTA’s inception in 1974. This next year we will continue to go upward and onward, expand our membership, and add more value to be a member of the VLTA family.

Glenda Brooks


Kevin PogodaKevin T. Pogoda, Esq., VCTE, VCTSA
VLTA President 2015-2016
Old Republic National Title Insurance Co.

June 2016

Wow—I can’t believe a whole year has gone by already since I became President of the Virginia Land Title Association.  Looking back at what we accomplished together, I am amazed.  Here are the highlights for me:

EDUCATION

The Virginia Land Title Institute was launched in October 2015, and since that time, we’ve issued over 1,000 continuing education credits, welcomed dozens of new professionals to our industry through the online Pre-Licensing class, and have grown our catalog of online education to over 120 hours of CE, CLE, VCTE, and VCTSA courses. And now I’m happy to announce that we have published a Notary Closer compliance course, available online 24/7. Get your notary closers certified!

EVENTS

Starting in March 2016, we began offering Regional Education Events to our membership. For All-Inclusive members, these events have been a delight at the bargain price of – FREE! We’ve welcomed 250 land title professionals to these events, and we hope you will consider joining us at one in the Fall.

COMMUNICATIONS

VLTA has amped up our social media presence tenfold, and we have become a leader in news and updates online. In fact, most other land title associations now get their news from us!

LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS

Recently the Bureau of Insurance made efforts to amend and revise the Rules Governing Settlement Agents. VLTA took the helm, and guided the industry through the comment period, offered education on the proposed changes, and helped to amend the Bill effecting these changes. We continue to interface regularly with the Bureau of Insurance; the Clerks of Court; and the Virginia General Assembly on behalf of the industry.

MEMBERSHIP

What has made this all possible is the growth in our membership. In just 4 months, VLTA grew our membership by over 50%, and I am proud to say that we now have more members than the Association has ever had in its 42-year history!

JOB BOARD

And last, but not least, I’d like to share with you a big announcement that I hope will have a positive impact not only on our industry, but on each and every business in the Commonwealth. During Convention, VLTA will launch a world-class career center, linking job seekers to employers in our industry. We will market this job board to college students across the Commonwealth. The job board interface is similar to what you might experience on Indeed.com or Glassdoor.com, but the pricing is less than 1/10th the cost. This is just one of many projects we’re working to unveil for 2016, and I hope you all will join me in thanking this fabulous Board of Directors for working so hard on our behalf.

Again, thank you all so very much for your encouragement to me personally and for your contributions to the VLTA.  We have had a truly historic year, thanks to you.  I hope to see you all at the Convention to celebrate!

Signing out,

Kevin T. Pogoda, Esq.

May 2016

I can hardly wait until the Annual Convention, which will be held June 3-4 at the Richmond Omni Hotel.  The theme of the evening is the Oscars, so please be sure to come so that you may see several members dressed up as movie stars.  I myself will be coming as Kevin Bacon—see if you can recognize me. 

But there are plenty of other reasons to come.  As we count down the days to the Convention, let me count down 7 reasons to come:

  • 7  hours of CE, CLE and CCE (CLICK HERE for the complete lineup)
  • 6  special meals and events, including a Keynote Address by Kim McConkey, Legislative Updates from VLTA Lobbyist, James Pickral, and a visit from ALTA Representative, Stewart Morris, Jr.
  • 5  new speakers including Brett Woodburn, Robert Gill, Stephanie Campbell, Michael Holden, and Mike Trowbridge
  • 4  fantastic prizes to win, including a 48” Smart TV, free VLTA Membership, and 2 Virtual Reality Headsets
  • 3  special sessions for VCTE’s on Friday
  • 2  hours of Ethics credits for attorneys and agents, courtesy of Susan Pesner, Esq. (“Yours, Mine and Ours: Attorney Owned Title Agencies”) and Michael T. Beavers from the Virginia Bureau of Insurance (“The Good, The Bad & the Ugly:  Ethics & the Bureau of Insurance”)
  • 1  Title Examiners’ Forms Workshop on Saturday

Click here to register for our “Red Carpet” event!  I promise you will have a “reel” good time.

April 2016

On March 24th I had the pleasure of attending our latest monthly meeting with the Bureau of Insurance. Accompanying me were VLTA Board Members Myrna Keplinger (Past President), Katherine Crawford (First Vice President), as well as Alaine Donavan. As usual, we had a very robust dialogue about various topics concerning the title and settlement industry. Here are some of the highlights:

The BOI is in the process of crafting their response to the many public comments they received to their proposed amendment to the regulations that implement RESA. When finished, the BOI will make their response public. I anticipate that the BOI will finish their response in the next couple of weeks. We will let you when they do! In the meantime, click here to go to VLTA’s action page where you can read the BOI’s proposal, the public comments, as well as VLTA’s response and helpful FAQs.
In reviewing the public comments to the BOI’s proposal, we all agreed that there was much confusion regarding the definition of “settlement agent”—especially among notaries and those who perform “notary closings.” This confusion is remarkable because the BOI did not substantively alter the definition of “settlement agent” found in RESA or its regulations. Recognizing this confusion and the commensurate need for education, the VLTA is in the process of developing an educational course for notaries, which will be free for all-inclusive members.

House Bill 393, sponsored by the BOI, passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting signature by the Governor, which is very likely to happen soon. The implementation date for this new law would likely be July 1, 2016. In summary, House Bill 393 requires that the “designated licensed producer,” which is responsible for a title company’s compliance with all insurance laws, must be an “employee, officer, or director” of the title company. In other words, an independent contractor will now be disqualified from serving as the “designated licensed producer.” What this means is that if your title company is relying on an independent contractor to serve as your designated licensed producer, it’s time for either you as the owner or someone on your staff to obtain a title license. And if that’s you, the VLTA is here to help! Click here to find out about VLTA’s online pre-licensing program, provided at a discount for VLTA members!

Finally, we began a long-term discussion to answer the question, “Who should sit at the settlement table?” Specifically, we discussed whether an individual who conducts a settlement should have a title license or whether it is enough that the entity has a title license and RESA registration. Currently, it is not required for a closer to possess a title license. But should it be required? In discussing this issue, we recognized that by statute, in order to sell or negotiate title insurance, one must possess a title license and that (arguably) it is hard to conduct a closing comprehensively without discussing (i.e., selling and negotiating) title insurance. Notably, individuals in Maryland who conduct closings must have a title license. Also notable is the fact that in most other lines of insurance, both the entity and the individual are licensed—and so our current practice of not requiring individuals to be licensed is at odds with other lines of insurance in Virginia. Again, this is a long-term discussion that the BOI is interested in having with us, and so we look forward to continuing this conversation with the BOI—and with you!

March 2016

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at VLTA’s first regional event that provides live education at no cost for all-inclusive members.  Several other such regional events are scheduled throughout the year in different parts of Virginia. Click here to see a listing and to register.

The event was a pleasure for two reasons.  First, I had the privilege of presenting along with the Honorable John T. Frey, Clerk of the Fairfax County Circuit Court.  John gave an outstanding presentation on all the bills that did not pass this time around.  John’s presentation is being made available on the VLTA website as an online course free for all-inclusive members.

The second reason why the event was such a pleasure was my audience, which was composed mainly of well-seasoned title examiners with a sprinkling of title agents as well.  My topic was decedent’s estates, and many attendees made the presentation lively by asking really good questions.

I did not know the answer to one of the questions, but I promised to research the matter and disseminate the answer to everyone.  The question is this:  Does a lien against a devisee attach to real property when the will directs the Executor to sell the subject property and disburse the proceeds to the devisee?  The answer is important because it affects how examiners conduct a title search and how agents evaluate that title search when insuring real property.

My research so far has yielded the following answer:  it depends.

Two cases are instructive.  The first is the Virginia Supreme Court case of Stark v. City of Norfolk, 183 Va. 282 (1944).  In this case, George H. Newton devised his real estate to his widow for life, with the remainder to their son, but if the son predeceased the widow, then to the testator’s brothers and sisters or surviving issue thereof.  The will named the widow as executrix and gave her the power, but not the direction, to sell the subject property.

During several years of the widow’s life, the City of Norfolk assessed taxes against the devised real estate, identifying the owner of the real estate as the “George H. Newton estate” in the assessments.  When the widow died, the surviving issue of testator’s brothers and sisters became entitled to the real estate, the son having predeceased the widow.  These two individuals asserted that title to the real estate passed to them free of the City’s assessments.

Evaluating this argument, the Court noted that the tax code requires that “the owner of real estate . . . shall be assessed for the taxes . . . .”  Interpreting the tax code in an earlier decision, the Court noted that such assessment must be assessed “in the name of the person who by himself or his tenant has the freehold in possession,” and that “it is well settled that if the person so assessed has an estate for life, it is his duty to pay the taxes.”  See Powers v. Richmond, 122 Va. 328 (1918).

The City contended it was proper to assess the taxes in the name of the estate because the will of George H. Newton empowered his executrix to sell the real estate.  In rejecting that argument, the Court stated as follows:

There is a marked distinction between a simple power of sale and a devise directing that the property be sold. If the devise is to the executor or trustee with the superadded power of sale, then title to the real estate passes to the executor or trustee, and such executor or trustee is entitled to hold the property until the sale is made. If, on the other hand, a naked power of sale only is conferred, the land descends to the heir or passes to the devisee under the will, and such heir or devisee is entitled to the use of the property until the executor or trustee executes the power. ‘In the one case the title becomes vested in the executor and the heir is entirely eliminated; in the other case the title becomes vested in the heir or the devisee, as the case may be, which is divested only when the executor makes the sale.‘ 1 Harrison on Wills and Adm., 2d ed., p. 578.

And thus the Court concluded that because the widow as executrix had the power but not the direction to sell the subject real estate, title because vested in her individually as a devisee, and the City should have assessed taxes against her, not the estate.  

For the sake of our question—Does a lien against a devisee attach to real property when the will directs the Executor to sell the subject property and disburse the proceeds to the devise?—notice that the Court remarks that when the executor is given the directive to sell, title vests in the executor and the heir is eliminated.  And so if we stopped here in our analysis, we might conclude that the answer to our question is “no, such liens do not attach because title never vests in the devisee.”

Regrettably, that is not the end of our analysis.  Another Virginia Supreme Court case is also instructive:  United States v. Cameron, 248 Va. 290 (1994).  In this case, Carolyn K. Cameron died testate, and her will directed her executor to sell certain real estate and divide the proceeds among her two adult children.  The proceeds going to one such devisee were claimed by two parties:  the IRS and an assignee.

The IRS claimed these proceeds based on the fact that the IRS filed a lien against this devisee prior to Cameron’s death, which would ordinarily attach to any real estate owned or subsequently acquired by the devisee.  Shortly after Cameron’s death, however, this devisee executed an “Assignment of Legacy,” which was recorded and served on the executor.  In support of his claim on the proceeds, the assignee argued that because the will required the executor to sell the testator’s real property, title to the property immediately vested in the executor only and not in the devisee so that the tax liens never attached to the devisee’s interest in the real property.

The Court disagreed.  The Court noted that the Internal Revenue Code subjects “all property and rights to property, whether real or personal” to a lien for unpaid taxes, and that this definition “is broad and reveals on its face that Congress meant to reach every interest in property that a taxpayer might have.”  Such a lien arises “automatically at the time of the assessment and attaches to all property or property rights that the taxpayer then possesses or subsequently possesses.”  The Court continued by evaluating whether the devisee in the instant matter had any property right to which the IRS’s lien could attach:

While the executor may have acquired the legal title to the property, the Taxpayer acquired an equitable or beneficial interest in the property, an interest that could be reached by his creditors.  See Sheridan v. Krause, 161 Va. 873 (1934).

And so the Court concluded that the IRS’s lien did indeed attach to the devisee’s interest in the real estate, despite the executor’s directive to sell.

While I believe that Stark and Cameron are indeed instructive, I do not believe that the answer to our question is entirely clear.  The Court in Stark did not distinguish between legal and equitable title, and that case hinged on the fact that the executor did not have a directive to sell, rendering the Court’s statements about what happens when there is a directive to sell non binding dicta.  Moreover, the Court in Cameron decided whether an IRS lien attaches to real property, which by definition has a very broad scope of applicability, perhaps more than an ordinary judgment lien, so the applicability of this case beyond the IRS lien is questionable.  Furthermore, the Sheridan case, upon which the Court in Cameron partly relied, is factually dissimilar from Cameron and has received negative treatment from subsequent court decisions. 

While Stark and Cameron do not make the answer to our question clear, I do believe that what examiners and title agents should do practically is clear.  Examiners should adverse the names of all devisees of real property under a will, regardless of whether that will directs the executor to sell real estate, because at the very least, we know that an IRS lien attaches.  When insuring property, title agents should recognize that an IRS lien attaches regardless of the executor’s directive to sell, but other “lesser” liens, like an ordinary judgment lien, may very well not attach to the subject real estate if the executor has such a directive.  For that scenario, the title agent should consult her or her underwriter and act accordingly.

If anyone has anything to add this analysis, please let me know! 

February 2016

In my last message, I remarked on my experience in joining fellow VLTA board members Myrna Keplinger and Katherine Crawford, as well as Alaine Donavan, at the Bureau of Insurance (BOI) in Richmond to discuss the BOI’s proposed “Rules Governing Settlement Agents,” which are regulations that implement Real Estate Settlement Agents (RESA, formerly CRESPA) found at Va. Code § 55-525.16 et seq.  Since my last message, the VLTA has filed comments to the BOI’s proposed regulations.  In this month’s newsletter, I’d like to remark on some of the highlights of those comments.

In a nutshell, the BOI’s proposed regulations:

  • Correct the former regulations by clarifying that these regulations apply with all real property in Virginia, not just 1-4 residential, which is consistent with RESA.  For attorneys, RESA is indeed limited to 1-4 residential.  For lay settlement agencies, RESA applies to residential and commercial.
  • Define a designated licensed producer (DLP) to mean an employee of a title company, not an independent contractor.  By statute, a DLP is responsible for a title agency’s compliance with all insurance laws.  This may be a game changer for smaller agencies that currently rely on the title license of an independent contractor to satisfy this requirement.
  • Enhance existing definitions and creates new regulations to make it clear that independent contractors, including so-called “notary closers,” who exert control over money in any way whatsoever must have a settlement agent registration.
  • Clarify existing requirements as to what information is required at the time of registration.
  • Create a new requirement to escheat annually, consistent with The Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act.
  • Create a new requirement to complete a file a close-out audit within 180 days of closing.
  • Create substantive new reporting requirements aimed at informing the BOI when a title company’s financial or moral health is potential compromised.
  • Create a new requirement that an agent shall not charge fees that are marked-up with no commensurate additional service to justify the markup.
  • Create a new requirement to hold settlement agents liable for the acts of their independent contractors.

If any of this sounds important to you—and it should—please click here to read the VLTA’s FAQs and extensive comments to the BOI’s proposed regulation.  And more importantly, please click here to submit your own comments before the February 16th deadline!  Be sure to use the right label:  INS-2015-00170.

January 2016

Today I had the pleasure of joining fellow VLTA board members Myrna Keplinger and Katherine Crawford, as well as Alaine Donavan, at the Bureau of Insurance (BOI) in Richmond to discuss the BOI’s proposed “Rules Governing Settlement Agents,” which are regulations that implement Real Estate Settlement Agents (RESA, formerly CRESPA) found at Va. Code § 55-525.16 et seq.  A copy of the proposed regulation can be found here, which was published on November 9, 2015 with an opportunity for public comment until December 31, 2015.  Thanks to several requests from the VLTA and many of you, that original deadline to comment has been extended until February 15, 2016

As we talked with the BOI about their proposal, it was clearly evident that the BOI worked very hard on these rules, and we all enjoyed a friendly and productive discussion as to the purpose and practical application of various parts of this proposed regulation.  If enacted, this regulation will have a significant impact on the title and settlement insurance industry.  I therefore encourage every one of you to read these proposed rules and comment by clicking here.

But before you do, please wait for the VLTA to produce its own comments for your review, as well as a document to explain various parts of the proposed regulation.  Sometimes when you meet a new person, your first impression is not the correct one.  This may also be true for the BOI’s proposed regulation—there are various provisions that may seem concerning at first, but only require a little explanation to make clear.

For example, those of us familiar with RESA know that the statute limits its applicability “only to transactions involving the purchase of or lending on the security of real estate located in the Commonwealth containing not more than four residential dwelling units.”  Va. Code § 55-525.18(A).  The current version of the regulations implementing RESA repeat this language verbatim.  Yet the new regulations proposed by the BOI state that “[t]his chapter . . . applies to . . . the purchase or lending on the security of any real property in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”  14VAC5-395-10. Is the BOI trying to extend RESA to commercial transactions?

No.  That first impression is not a correct one.  You need to dig a little deeper in the statute.  When RESA limits itself to family 1-4 transactions, it states “[e]xcept as provided in subsection B.”  Subsection B states as follows:

A lay real estate settlement agent may provide escrow, closing, and settlement services for any real property located within the Commonwealth, and receive compensation for such services, provided he is registered pursuant to and is in compliance with the provision of this chapter . . . .  Va. Code § 55-525.18(B).

So what do these two sections mean together?  If RESA could talk, it would in essence say this:  “Attention all attorneys:  if you want to do residential closings, you must follow my rules; but if you want to do commercial closings, you can ignore my rules.  Attention all non-attorneys:  if you want to do any closings—residential or commercial—you must follow my rules.”

To put it another way, RESA is limited to 1-4 residential transactions for attorneys, but expanded to all residential and commercial transactions for lay settlement agents.  And so for the latter group, RESA applies to “any real property.”  And that is why the BOI correctly has proposed amending the current RESA regulation to say that “[t]his Chapter (i.e., these regulations) . . . applies to . . .   the purchase or lending on the security of any real property in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”  14VAC5-395-10. 

Please watch out for further emails from the VLTA that will shed more light on BOI’s proposed regulation so that you can make informed comments.  2016 is a year of change, a year of action. VLTA will help keep you at the ready. Happy New Year!

Read more about the BOI's proposed changes to the administrative code at www.vlta.org/action

December 2015

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I had my third heart surgery, this time to correct an aneurysm that had developed in my aortic root. The surgery was successful. My recovery was difficult in the beginning but is progressing very nicely now. My chest is still sore, and it really does hurt when I laugh. And let's not talk about sneezing.

Having this procedure has forced me to stop burning the candle at both ends.  In light of Thanksgiving and in light of the gravity of my procedure, I have paused to reflect on a few things that I hope will be meaningful for you.

Reflection #1: It's over, and I'm still here. Heart surgery is no cakewalk. When I came out of sedation I couldn't breathe deep because I was in so much pain. I had a CPAP device taped to my nose for oxygen, three IV lines, three drainage tubes coming out of my chest, two wires connected to my heart (also coming out of my chest), and let's not even talk about the catheter.

Having had two heart surgeries before, I knew this recent heart surgery would involve all of this. And so it should come as no surprise to you when I say that there were many days prior to my surgery that I was fearful--fearful of walking around with an aneurysm and fearful of the process I had to go through to correct it.

But for the most part, it's over, and I'm still here. The surgery was a success. One by one, all those tubes, lines and wires were removed from my body. I went home. My scars are healing. I am beginning to work again. I started driving again. I still get winded walking upstairs, but I am getting stronger every day.

I have been accused of having heart surgery just so that I could escape all the disasters that seem to be so pervasive in our industry due to the implementation of CFPB's "Know Before You Owe" rule. I hear of software that does not work, delayed closings, and confusion among processors, lenders and consumers. I can assure you, I did not plan my heart surgery to escape all this, but perhaps I just experienced a similar pain in another context.

Like me, perhaps you feel like the surgery is over--the TRID rule has been implemented, and you are just now coming out of sedation to find that your life is hampered--not by tubes, lines and wires, but by title software that does not work right or by people who are part of your closing process but who nonetheless do not understand how the new TRID rule is supposed to work.

If you can see this correlation between you and me, then you should have hope. Like me, you will recover. One by one, all those hindrances will be removed. You will feel productive again. You will grow stronger and more skillful in your day-to-day duties. Along with me, you will be able to look back, sigh with relief and say, "It's over, and I'm still here."

Reflection #2: Be thankful. Heart surgery can change one's perspective; it did for me. Perhaps like you, I find it easy to get carried away with all the things that are wrong in my life. But you know, it only makes matters worse to complain or fret about those things. With all this free time I now have in my recovery, I choose to reflect instead about all the wonderful things I am thankful for, like my children, my friends and my colleagues at work and in the VLTA. I am thankful for the talents that I have so that I can make a difference in the lives of others. And I am thankful that there are more good works for me to do while on this earth. What are you thankful for?

October 2015

Every President has a focus – mine is education. I am happy to say that it is beginning to show, and all of us on the Board are working very hard to make education both accessible and affordable through our new Virginia Land Title Institute. Here is what is coming your way:

  • A new choice for membership: "All inclusive" membership will allow you unfettered access to all our online general education, free admission to our regional educational events, and 50 percent off Convention registration.
  • Regional education events: We bring the education to you, locally. Instead of a multi-day Fall Seminar, we are having a day’s worth of education in smaller, local venues around the Commonwealth. No more extensive travel and hotel fees!  Free to all inclusive members!
  • Online education: Over 100 hours of online education. We have it all, from fracking to bankruptcy. Free to all inclusive members!
  • Online pre-licensing course: 16 hours of prelicensing will now be available to take at your own pace in your own choice of location. No more two-day live events! No more travel and hotel expenses!
  • Online VCTE: Coming in November!
  • Online VCTSA: Coming in 2016!
  • Free business and management webinars for members only: Take your lunch hour to sharpen your game. Topics include best practices certification, technology security, e-recording, HR, marketing, and more!
  • Our Annual Convention is reduced to a two-day format, packed with seven hours of CE/CLE/VCTE/VCTSA credits. There is something for everyone!
  • Even more to come!

If knowledge is power, our new Virginia Land Title Institute is the gym. I hope you will join me and the other Board members as we work out on this new equipment. Don’t see something you like? Please let me know!

September 2015

As I mentioned in my last message, I have the pleasure of teaching VLTA’s new and improved Prelicensing Course—but if you think this course is only for folks without a title license, think again.  Even if you are currently licensed and very experienced, some of the takeaways from this course may surprise you.  Here are 10 of my favorites:

  • Va. Code § 38.2-218:  If you don’t follow the rules, the Bureau of Insurance (BOI) can fine you $5,000 for a knowing and willful violation and $1,000 for violations without knowledge, the latter being limited to $10,000 in the aggregate.
  • Va. Code § 38.2-1831:  The BOI can impose such penalties and more to punish all kinds of misbehavior, including failure to comply with child support and state income tax evasion.  Also punishable is the act of “twisting,” defined as “inducing an insured to terminate an existing policy and purchase a new policy through misrepresentation.” 
  • Va. Code § 38.2-1826:  Within 30 days, each licensed agent must report to the BOI:  (1) change of residence; (2) change in name; (3) conviction of a felony; and (4) “the final disposition of . . . any administrative action taken against him in another jurisdiction or by another governmental agency in this Commonwealth.”  Think about that last one:  you get a ticket in D.C., fight it and lose.  Does this section require you to report it to the BOI?
  • Va. Code § 38.2-1869:  Within 6 months of the end of the biennium, the BOI will provide a status report to each licensed agent who has not yet satisfied the continuing education requirements.  Mark your calendar.  The end of this biennium is December 2016.  If you don’t get the notice, did you forget to let the BOI know that you moved pursuant to Va. Code § 38.2-1826?
  • Va. Code § 38.2-612:  You cannot base an adverse underwriting decision on the fact of a past adverse underwriting decision.  So if XYZ Title Company won’t insure a transaction and the buyer shops the transaction to you to see if you will insure it, you cannot refuse to insure in whole or in part on the fact that XYZ declined to do so.
  • Va. Code 38.2-610:  In the event of an adverse underwriting decision, an agent must provide the proposed insured with the reasons therefor or that such reasons are obtainable upon request.
  • Va. Code 38-1822:  An individual cannot act as an agent without a license.  Acting as an agent includes “selling, negotiating contracts of insurance.”  Is your closer an unlicensed individual?  If so, do you think reviewing the cost of title insurance constitutes “selling, negotiating contracts of insurance?”  What if the consumer asks whether he should get the standard policy or enhanced policy?  More importantly, how do you think the BOI would answer these questions?  Remember the penalties of Va. Code § 38.2-218.
  • Va. Code 38-1822 (again):  You must notify the BOI if you operate under a fictitious name.
  • Va. § 38.2-509:  You cannot induce someone to buy title insurance by offering something of value not specified in the title insurance contract.  Do you offer a “free” home warranty to consumers if they use your title company?  That’s great!  But do you condition this freebie on them purchasing title insurance so that the cost of the warranty is covered on your end?  Saying “I’ll give you a free home warranty only if you buy title insurance” is the same thing as saying “Buy title insurance and I’ll give you a free home warranty.”  Arguably, you are inducing the consumer to buy title insurance with something not specified in the title insurance contract in violation of this statute.
  • Va. § 38.2-613.2:  A licensed agent must develop a comprehensive, written security program with administrative, technical and physical safeguards to protect policyholder information.  Sound like ALTA’s Best Practices?  That’s optional; this is not.

These intriguing takeaways are only a sample of the many things to be learned in our new and improved Prelicensing Course.  So if you have unlicensed individuals in your office, please consider sending them my way!

-Kevin T. Pogoda, President 2015-2016

August 2015

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of teaching VLTA’s new and improved Prelicensing Course for Title Agents in Virginia—16 hours of material to satisfy the Commonwealth’s educational requirement to obtain a title producer’s license.  We talked about the title search, the commitment, owner’s and loan policies, forms of real estate ownership, access, statutes of limitations, liens, legal descriptions, methods of conveying title, the powers of the State Corporation Commission, RESA, RESPA and much, much more!

And when I say “I had the pleasure of teaching,” I mean it.  I love to teach.  I love making the complicated simple.  I have fun making people laugh and learn at the same time.  I consider myself an “edutainer”—something of a cross between an educator and an entertainer.

Certainly, I had all those pleasures during this 2-day event.  But the real pleasure for me at this event was getting to know the people taking the course.  Title experience ranged from 0 years to 14 years.  Some people there wanted to start their own title company.  Some wanted to start a closing service.  Others had worked at a title and escrow company for many years and thought that it was time that they “finally” get their title license.

We should be very encouraged by this.  This bodes very well for our industry.  It is really easy to feel burdened by the CFPB’s rules and oversight, as well as the time and expense of adopting ALTA’s Best Practices and new technology to satisfy increasing demands of our lender partners.  But for a moment, don’t look at that.  Look at the people in this class.  Here are people that see our industry as an industry worth coming into.  Here are people that have been in our industry for many years and are making worthwhile investments to upgrade their credentials to stick with it.  You and I are part of that industry, and we should be encouraged that it is growing. 

And so I encourage myself and you as well to grow with it.  Think creatively how you can adapt your business to meet these new challenges and reap the reward of your efforts.  Are there others in your office who could benefit from the Prelicensing Course?  Have you taken the time to look at all the wonderful services and products that our affiliated vendor providers have to offer?  Is there something you need that you think the VLTA can do for you?   Let us know!  Like you, the VLTA is growing, too!

Kevin T. Pogoda, President, VLTA

July 2015

Growing up in California, I was one of those kids who got picked last on the team during recess.  But in high school, I joined the swim team and water polo team.  Water polo in particular is a really tough sport.  It is a full contact sport, and you are treading water for the entire game—there is no bottom to stand on.

When I joined, I was one of the worst players, but I worked hard and went to every practice.  My first year, I was voted the Most Improved Player.  Later I became the Most Valuable Player and Team Captain.  I lettered in my sophomore year, which was a really big deal, and eventually I earned the Coronet Award for athletics—the highest award my school had to offer.  I was an “aqua jock”!

During one of our water polo games, our school photographer came by to take some black and white photos of the game.  She took one of me, making a shot, and later presented me with a copy of the photo.  When I saw it, I was amazed.  It was such a cool photo!  My eyes were like lasers, fixed on the goal.  I was palming the ball, and my arm was cocked back to take the shot.  Beads of water were flying off the ball, and my bicep was the size of Texas.  The only other person in the photo was my defender, who was off in the distance, unable to prevent my winning shot.

Well, when I saw that picture, I was amazed—I couldn’t believe it was me.  In spite of all those great awards I had received, I thought very little of myself in high school.  I looked like that?  Wow!  I couldn’t believe it!  But here was the proof, in black and white—literally.  I was so encouraged by that picture, I framed it.

Fast forward now to my second law job in Virginia.  I still had that picture, framed and sitting in my office.  Why?  Because it encouraged me—it reminded me of what I could do.  Well, one day another associate moved into the “cell” next to mine, so I went over to introduce myself.  As we talked I learned that like me, he was from California.  And as we talked some more, he mentioned that he played water polo in high school.  Well, upon hearing that, I waltzed on over to my office, got my favorite picture, and handed it to him.

“What do you think of that?”  I asked.

“No way!” he said.  I’m thinking to myself:  I look cool, right?  He must be impressed.  But as he continued, it was evident that he was not impressed with how awesome I looked. 

“What?” I asked.

“I’m the other guy in this photo.”

Amazing!  He was the other guy, my defender, in the photo.  What are the chances that two people who get captured in a photo playing against each other in a water polo game in California end up working side-by-side in Virginia at the same law firm?  Mind-blowing, right?

So what did we do?  We went around the office, blowing people’s minds!  We showed them the photo and asked, “Guess who?”  Then they would say, “No way!”  We were instantly famous.

Why do I tell this story?  Well, we are in a tough game right now with all the changes to our industry.  It’s a little tougher than water polo, and we are treading water, trying to stay afloat.  Perhaps like me, you are thinking very little of yourself, wondering if you can make it, wondering if you can stay afloat with all that is going on.  If that is how you picture yourself . . . don’t.  When I look around this room at abstractors and title and settlement agents, I see a lot of “title jocks” in the room.  And when I look at my fellow underwriters and vendors and other service providers, I see a lot of coaches and trainers in the room. 

And so Takeaway No. 1 is to find something that encourages you.  For me, it’s God and family.  Some people feel called to the mission field; I feel called to my Company, Old Republic, and to this industry.  And that encourages me.

My family also encourages me.  I’m not talking about my children, I am talking about all the faces at my table here tonight—my family at Old Republic.  I’m talking about my boss, Herb Walton, and I’m talking about Morty and Chris and Yoli and Kay and Megan and Stephanie.   I don’t need a picture of me playing water polo anymore, because when I look at you guys, I am encouraged.

What encourages you?  Is it God and family, or something else?  Is it your clients, your employees, your kids, or the value of what you do and how important it is to our economy?  Whatever it is—find it, frame it, fix your mind upon it.  Do not neglect the discipline of speaking that encouragement to your heart every day.

Takeaway No. 2 is this:  prepare to be amazed!  There are a lot of amazing changes to our industry, to your operations, to you as you navigate through all these new rules.  Some will not want to embrace change.  Some will not be able to afford the change.  These groups will leave the industry, and when they do, they will leave business on the table for you and me.  So for us in this room and in this Association, it means opportunity.  But it will be a team effort.  Together, we will tread water and stay afloat.  Together, we will get new business.  Together, we will win.  And that will be amazing.

Kevin Pogoda


 

Messages from Past President, Myrna Keplinger

June 2015

It is hard to believe that my tenure as President of Virginia Land Title Association is drawing to an end.  The experience of the past year has been truly wonderful.  I thank you for the honor of being your President.    I want to thank Judy Blackwell for staying on the Board as Past President for another year.  Her wisdom and insight have been greatly appreciated.  Your Board of Directors, Committee Members and Executive Director have worked tirelessly this year and their accomplishments are outstanding. Virginia Land Title Association has a new enhanced website that is very user friendly. We have strategic partners and plans in place.   A printed Membership Directory should be released in the next few months. Our Virginia Implementation Guide to the Best Practices will also be released soon.   We have our Certification Continuing Guidebook online. VLTA is working hard on building relationships with our Clerks, Lenders, American Land Title Association (ALTA), Virginia State Bar, State and National Legislators, and Regulators.  We participate in regular meetings with our Bureau of Insurance.  We tracked 58 Legislative Bills. We increased our Title Action Network by 55%.    Our VCTE Textbook Supplement was completed by our own Virginia Subject Matter Experts. You spoke, we listened.  You asked for more online courses, and VLTA has more online courses.  You asked for lower tuition fees so VLTA has worked hard to lower our fees.  You asked for improved program quality, VLTA continues to work on improving the quality of our Education Programs.   As you can see, this was a busy year.

I want to thank the 2014-2015 VLTA Board of Directors for all their hard work this year.  Kevin Pogoda, 1st VP; Glenda Brooks, 2nd VP; Joy Herndon, Treasurer; Colleen Taylor, Secretary; Judy Blackwell, Past President; Heather Meahl, Director of Examiner; Elizabeth Jamerson, Director of Education; Skip Sacks, Director of Communications; Katherine Crawford, Director of Member Resources,  Matthew Reass, Director of Events; and Norbert Prigge, Director of Legislative Affairs and of course, I want to thank our very energetic Executive Director, Katie Herndon, for everything she has done for VLTA.  

Our 2015 Annual Convention in Colonial Williamsburg will be outstanding.  We will have great Educational Sessions, Best Practices Manual Workshop, Special Marketing Education, Clerks Education Sessions, Product Demonstrations and Social Events in Colonial Williamsburg.

Awards will be given out to Lisa Owen, VCTE, for Outstanding Professional of the Year; Sonia Kuppert, VCTE, VCTSA, NTP, for Volunteer of the Year and Peter Parente for Ronald Donn Award.   VLTA is also proud to announce that we have three agents that hold the National Title Professional designation, Joy Herndon, Heather Meahl and Sonia Kuppert.   Please remember to congratulate them when you see them at convention.

I also want to welcome our new 2015-2106 Board of Directors.   Kevin Pogoda, President; Glenda Brooks, President Elect; Katherine Crawford, 1st VP; Heather Meahl, Treasurer; Skip Sacks, Secretary; Julie Rutledge, Director of Examiner; Frank Butler, Director of Education, Elizabeth Jamerson, Director of Communications; Sonia Kuppert, Director of Member Resources; Megan Meloon, Director of Events; and Norbert Prigge, Director of Legislative Affairs. Our new Board of Directors will be installed at the Gala event on Saturday evening. 

The Convention will be a great time for all.  I look forward to seeing you then.

May 2015

I’m so excited to let everyone know that our Virginia Specific Guide to ALTA’s Best Practices for Title Insurance Agents will soon be released. The Virginia Best Practices Committee, with the assistance of our wonderful Executive Director did great job creating the guide. This is a Virginia-specific guide based on the ALTA Seven Pillars of Best Practices. Each pillar has a summary of Virginia’s laws, practices and policies, as well as recommendations for organizations looking to “vet” Virginia’s title businesses. The Guide is a concise and easy to read booklet, geared toward the small businesses that make up the backbone of Virginia’s Land Title industry. Along those same lines, VLTA is forming a Small Business Task Force to help support and promote small business. Please consider lending your voice and experience in assisting us with this venture.  

The VCTE Continuing Education Day in Staunton was huge success. Everyone had a great time, learned a lot, and visited with friends. The next VCTE Education day will be scheduled in Northern Virginia within a few months.  

As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the new face of VLTA will be glowing at our 2015 Annual Convention at Colonial Williamsburg. We are offering 9 hours of CE/CLE, 5 hours of VCTE and 10 hours of VCTSA.  We have scheduled some amazing speakers, such as Stephen Gunther, a motivational speaker, who will give his account of Attorney to Inmate….What Went Wrong? We will also hear from Dan Wold of Old Republic Title and Chair of ALTA’s RESPA/TRID Task Force; and Nathan Burch, President of McLean Mortgage and Mortgage Bankers Association board member, give a presentation on RESPA-TILA Integration. Pat Stone, President and CEO of WFG will give the Keynote Address. Steve Day of Fidelity National Title and ALTA’s Treasurer, will install the new VLTA Board of Directors.  We also have Tarek Sharif, Jim Paolino, Richard Curd and Cindy McGovern speaking, as well as our very own Lisa Tully, Liz Steele, Robert Brooks, Jim Windsor and James Pickral.  13 fascinating speakers all at one grand event!

The Exhibitors will be set up Thursday afternoon and will be there until Saturday afternoon.  Don’t forget to stop and visit with the exhibitors and learn what they have to offer you. There will be exhibitor games throughout the event with opportunities to win free education and prizes.

We have our Best Practices Hall Kickoff for the review of your Best Practices Manual on Thursday afternoon through Saturday afternoon. Come early to enter the iPad drawing on Thursday at our Welcome Reception - you can’t win if you aren’t there! Special thanks to TitlePac and Kaufman & Canoles for donating 2 iPads this year!  

This is the first year VLTA will host a special Clerk’s Educational session at Convention. We have clerks from across the Commonwealth planning to attend.  Come and join us at the Cocktails with Clerks at 5pm Friday evening. Ghost tours will follow our dine-around on Friday evening.  Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Tours rank as one of the Top Ten Ghost Tours in the US. 

Our event will continue with special VCTE Educational sessions on Saturday. We have education for everyone. Following Saturday’s education sessions, we’ll enjoy drawings for over $1,500 in prizes, including one of our two iPads!

Our VLTA Annual Convention will wrap up with a special Gala and Reception on Saturday evening.  It will be a delightful opportunity to catch up with your title industry friends from around the state. Already, over 170 land title professionals including Agents, Underwriters, Examiners, Clerks, and industry vendors have registered to attend. Please mark your calendars and plan on attending, too. I hope to see you all there!

April 2015

Hallelujah! Spring has arrived!  I must say, most of us wondered if Mother Nature had a weird sense of humor with the wintry mix the first day of Spring. Luckily, Virginia did not get the 110.6 inches of snow that Boston received. Can’t imagine trying to do business with all that snow!

What is so lovely about Spring is that it brings a new face to the landscape, the wonderful spring market and smiling faces.  Look around you, don’t you think your friends and co-workers look happier?

At the 2014 VLTA Annual Convention, we talked about the new face of  VLTA.  VLTA has a new website, a printed Membership Directory, and an opportunity to purchase The Examiner in print. We have the Virginia Implementation Guide for ALTA’s Best Practices.  We are the first state to create and publish the Best Practices guide for our members.   This year was the first year of VLTA Strategic Plan and Strategic Partnership. Our Strategic Partners are Rynoh Live, Soft Pro, Old Republic National Title Insurance Company, TIAC, FVC Bank, First American Title Company, Virginia Interactive, Access National Bank and Fax Trax.   Fees for our online courses were reduced. Title Action Network (TAN) Growth increased by 50%.  These are just a few things that your Board and Committees have been working on this year.

Our new face of VLTA will be shining at our 2015 Annual Convention at Colonial Williamsburg.  We are offering 9 hours of CE/CLE, 5 hours of VCTE and 10 hours of VCTSA.  We have scheduled some great speakers.  Stephen Gunter, motivational speaker will give his account of “Attorney to Inmate….What Went Wrong?”   Dan Wold, of Old Republic Title and Chair of ALTA’s RESPA/TRIAD Task Force, and Nathan Burch, President of McLean Mortgage and on the Board of Governors of MBA will give a presentation on RESPA-TILA Integration. Pat Stone, President and CEO of WFG will give the Keynote Presentation.  Steve Day, Fidelity National Title and ALTA’s Treasurer, will install the new VLTA Board of Directors.  Our own Lisa Tully, Liz Steele, Robert Brooks, Jim Windsor and James Pickeral will be speaking as well. We also have Tarek Sharif, Jim Paolino, Richard Curd and Cindy McGovern speaking.  13 Great speakers all at one great event!

The Exhibitors will be setting up Thursday afternoon and be there for all of us until Saturday afternoon.  So stop by and see all the exhibitors and learn what they have to offer you.  Play the Exhibitor Games throughout the event and win prizes.  Win free online education. Win prizes from our exhibitors.

We have our Best Practices Hall Kickoff for the review of your Best Practices Manual on Thursday afternoon.  An i-Pad will be given away at the Thursday’s Welcome Reception. You can’t win if you aren’t there. 

This is the first year to have a Clerk’s Educational session at our VLTA Convention.  Come and join us at the Cocktails with the Clerks at 5pm Friday evening.  We have clerks from across the Commonwealth planning to attend..     Ghost tours will follow our dine-around on Friday evening.  Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Tours rank as one of the Top Ten Ghost Tours in the US. 

Friday is also the day for the VCTE Educational Sessions.  We have education for everyone.

Our VLTA Annual Convention will wrap up with our Gala and Reception on Saturday evening.  It will be a fun time for all of us.    Please mark your calendars and plan on attending.  I hope to see you all there.

Once again, I want to say thank you to Lisa Owen, Court Square Title Agency, for organizing VLTA’s first VCTE Continuing Education Day in Staunton, VA on Friday, April 10 from 10-4. We now have about 43 people registered to attend.    There will be three great sessions.   John Hill, Esquire will be presenting Ethics for Title Examiners; Daniel Hansen will be presenting Surveys, Rights of Way and Symbols on Plats; and Nicole Briggs will be presenting Cover Sheets Recordings.  If you have not signed up for a day of 5 hours of VCTE Continuing Education Credits please go to vlta@memberclicks-mail.net.    Look forward to seeing you there.  

March 2015

The Bureau of Insurance and the Virginia Land Title Association have created a task force to review and discuss topics pertaining to the Title Industry.  The BOI/VLTA working task force members are Brian Gaudiose, Deputy Commissioner; Michael Beavers, Chief  Agent Investigations Section; Chuck Myers, Supervisor RESA Investigations Section; Demarion Johnston, Associate General Counsel; Alaine Donovan, Fidelity Title and yours truly.

A topic of discussion was on Unclaimed Properties and the correct way to handle the funds. 

In accordance with the Code of Virginia, Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act (Chapter 11.1 §§ 55-210.1 - 55-210.30), property becomes unclaimed when the holder has not had contact with the owner of the property for a specified period of time.  After the passage of the dormancy period, if there has been no activity generated by the owner, the property is then presumed abandoned.  Unclaimed property is all tangible or intangible personal property that has remained unclaimed by its owner for an extended period of time.

As Settlement Agents, funds that are in our escrow accounts are Other People’s Money, and any funds remaining in an escrow account must be disbursed to the proper party.  Virginia’s Unclaimed Property Division makes it easy for us to zero out any account with a balance by escheating funds to the State.  Funds can always be escheated early, and the Commonwealth will return any unclaimed property funds to their rightful owner.  Escheating unclaimed property annually makes for a clean RESA audit and shows your underwriter you follow best practices.

Fortunately for those of us in the settlement industry, we do not have to perform due diligence on amounts that are less than $100.  That means when there is a pesky bank error and a check was cashed for five cents less than it should have been, you can remit those funds as unclaimed property.  However, we must attempt to contact the owners of any accounts with a value of $100 or more by mailing a first class letter to their last known address.  Failure to perform due diligence as prescribed by §55-210.12 can result in a civil penalty of up to $50 per account upon which due diligence was not performed (§55-210.26:1, subsection B).

Even if you don’t have any unclaimed property to report at this time, take the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the process by  going to the website of the Unclaimed Property Division of Virginia’s Department of Treasury  http://www.trs.virginia.gov/UCP/ .  You can read the FAQs and download and print the current Holder Reporting Booklet for step by step instructions.  Please note that any report of unclaimed property containing 25 or more properties must be reported electronically utilizing the NAUPA (National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators) format.  Virginia has reporting software you can download in order to report electronically.  Their website makes the process quite self-explanatory, and the folks in the Treasury Department are easy to work with and happy to answer questions.

Now here is the fun part. If you want to check if you have any personal unclaimed property, go the http://vamoneysearch.org/  enter your name and last seven digits of your Social Security Number. Woe is me, as I did not have any personal unclaimed property.    

I want to say thank you to Lisa Owen of Court Square Title Agency, for organizing VLTA’s first VCTE Continuing Education Day in Staunton, VA on Friday, April 10 from 10-4.  There will be three great sessions. John Hill will be presenting Ethics for Title Examiners; Daniel Hansen will be presenting Advanced Survey Topics for Title Examiners; and Nicole Briggs will be presenting Recordings: The Clerk’s Perspective. If you have not yet signed up, visit www.vlta.org for more information, or email vlta@vlta.org for a paper registration form. I look forward to seeing you there. 

VLTA plans on having more VCTE Continuing Education Events throughout the Commonwealth, so stay tuned for more information as these sessions are planned.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for our VLTA Annual Convention on June 4-6 at Colonial Williamsburg Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia.  It will be great time enjoyed by all! 

February 2015

What does the month of February bring to mind?  Do you think about Groundhog’s Day?  Since the Groundhog saw his shadow, will we have six (!) more weeks of winter?   Or do you think about the movie Groundhog Day in which Bill Murray is Phil the weatherman?  Phil relived the same day over and over until he got the forecast correct.  

What I think of for the month of February is that my company, The Settlement Group, has the RESA Audit and another underwriter audit.  I’m glad to have the audits done just to make sure we are doing everything correctly but it is a concern all the same.  Will the underwriters look at our Best Practices Manual to see how we are progressing?  Will there be new audit standards coming up with the new ruling taking effect August 2015? 

February is one month closer to August when the TILA-RESPA rule takes effect.  The Lenders aren’t waiting for August 2015 to vet title companies.  They are doing it now. Our Company was vetted by three Lenders in just two weeks.  When you send the documents to your lender for the vetting process, be sure to include VCTE and VCTSA Certificates.  These certifications demonstrate to the lender you are keeping up with the latest education.  

If a lender asked you send all your information regarding Best Practices #3, would you know what information they needed?   This leads us to this small quiz-- I’ll list the Best Practices description  and you will add the  Best Practices correct number to the description..  The answers will appear at the end of this article.

Best Practices _____:   Adopt and maintain a written privacy and information security program to protect Non-public Personal Information as required by local, state and federal law.

Best Practices _____:  Adopt and maintain written procedures for resolving consumer complaints.

Best Practices_____:  Adopt and maintain appropriate written procedures and controls for Escrow Trust accounts allowing for electronic verification of reconciliation.

Best Practices_____ : Establish and maintain current License(s) as required to conduct the business of title insurance and settlement services.

Best Practices______:  Maintain appropriate professional liability insurance and fidelity coverage.

Best Practices______: Adopt standard real estate settlement procedures and policies that help ensure compliance with Federal and State Consumer Financial Laws as applicable to the Settlement process.

 Best Practices______:  Adopt and maintain written procedures related to title policy production, delivery reporting and premium remittance.

Did you get the right Best Practices number with the Best Practices Description?  Will you be ready when the Lenders call you for your Best Practices Manual or information?  Let VLTA help you.

This year, at our Annual Convention at Williamsburg, we will have VLTA’s first Best Practices Manual Workshop.  There will be consultants available to review your Best Practices Manual.  They will tell you your weak areas and will set up appointments for you to work with the Pillar Consultants.   How fabulous is this!

We have so much planned for our Annual Convention this year.  I have been asked if we will continue to have Saturday sessions for VCTE and VCTSA CCE Credits and answer is Yes!   So mark your calendar for June 4-6 and plan to attend the VLTA Annual Convention.  Look forward to seeing everyone there. 

The answer to the quiz:  3, 7, 2, 1, 6. 4, 5. 

January 2015

At the beginning of a new year, I love to reflect on the past year and all the things I have to be thankful for. I'm so thankful for my family and friends. I'm also thankful for VLTA Board of Directors, Committee members and our Executive Director.

Last year was such a busy and eventful time for VLTA. The VLTA Board of Directors hired a great executive director, Katie Herndon, whose enthusiasm and graciousness is contagious to everyone around her. With her great attention to detail, and eagerness to think outside the box, your VLTA Board has been able to achieve great things and the lay the groundwork for the future. Thank you, Katie!

I also want to thank the 2013-14 VLTA Board of Directors, who worked tirelessly until the end of their term in June: Deborah Allen, President; Patric Copeland, 2nd VP; Kevin Pogoda, Treasurer;Glenda Brooks, Secretary; Judy Blackwell, Past President; Heather Meahl, Director of Member Resources;Kenneth Dickinson, Director of Education;Colleen Taylor, Director of Communications; and Joy Herndon, Director of the Examiner. Deborah Allen retired and moved to Alabama to be closer to family. Patric and Ken were not able to continue with the VLTA board.

Our Annual Convention in June was one of the best ever. You elected your new 2014-15 Board of Directors, which increased in size from 10 to 12 members. I was given the honor of serving in the presidency of this great association. Accompanying me on the Board are Kevin Pogoda, 1st VP; Glenda Brooks, 2nd VP; Joy Herndon,Treasurer; Colleen Taylor,Secretary; Judy Blackwell, Past President; Heather Meahl, Director of the Examiner; Elizabeth Jamerson,Director of Education; Katherine Crawford, Director of Member Resources; Skip Sacks, Director of Communications; Matthew Reass, Director of Events; andNorbert Prigge, Director of Legislative Affairs. Luckily, Judy Blackwell stayed on the Board as Past President so we could benefit from her wisdom for another year. Our Board members, along with our great Committee members, have been working hard for you.

Also at our Annual Convention, Tracy Milanese was recognized as Volunteer of the Year, and Susan Johnson was the recipient of the Ronald Donn Scholarship. We were honored to have as convention speakers Diane Evans, President of ALTA; Madeleine Nagy, ALTA; and Brian Gaudiose, BOI. We also had great sessions, sponsors and vendors all ready to help us with our Best Practices. Remember, in August of 2015 we will be speaking a new language of Closing Disclosures, the three-day waiting period prior to consummation, and some of the lenders will be generating and delivering the Closing Disclosure. Times are changing, and we must change with them.

The Fall Seminar was one of our best attended in years. Julie Rutledge was awarded the Distinguished Service Award. Once again VLTA outdid itself with great speakers, sessions, sponsors and vendors.

VLTA did more than put on events. We heard our title examiners say they couldn't get away from the office for the Virginia Certified Title Examiner Course, so VLTA put the course online. To find out about our online courses, go to www.vlta.org/course-catalog. I think you will be surprised by the multitude of courses we have provided for you.

Our Board of Directors and Committee members also worked on the new VLTA website as well as the Certification Continuing Education (CCE) Guidebook, trademarks for the VCTE and VCTSA, strategic plans and partnerships, membership benefits, the VA Best Practices Implementation Guide, and many more projects. Some projects were completed in 2014, and some are continuing into the new year.

Our 2015 Annual Convention will be held in Colonial Williamsburg on June 4-6. We had a great convention last year, and I believe our 2015 event will top that! Please mark your calendar and plan on joining us.

As you can see with all the projects going on with VLTA, we could use your help. So please volunteer a few hours of your time and help VLTA become a stronger association. We value your thoughts, ideas and wisdom.

May you all have a very prosperous and healthy New Year!

December 2014

"I always wondered why somebody didn't do something about that, then I realized, I am somebody."

I saw these words in a meme recently and wondered, "How can we convey this sentiment to our members?" I often hear people wish things would go differently or that they'd really appreciate it if some piece of legislation was changed, etc. We all have issues that we deal with on a regular basis within the title industry, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), legislation, educating ourselves and our employees and running our title business. No matter who you are, there is something near and dear to your heart. Members, it is time for you to be somebody

This year, why not give yourself the Gift of Change for Christmas? Sign up, volunteer, and make a difference to the industry and to yourself? Give just a little bit of yourself each month to the changes that you want to see happen in our industry. This year, be the change that you want to see in the title world. Volunteer to write an article for the Examiner or join a committee. For those of you who would like to join a committee, here is a brief overview of each committee.

Communications Committee

The Communications Committee prepares and review (in conjunction with the Executive Director) press releases, public relations brochures, publications, advertising, social media, personal appearances, and other media to promote a better understanding of the land title industry and the Association and the services they provide.

Education Committee

The Education Committee has the responsibility of exploring, recommending to the Board, and then implementing Board approved programs of training and education that will benefit the land title industry and assist the members of this association in fulfilling the objectives of the Association. To that end, the Education Committee secures speakers for Association events involving education; secures education content for online courses, webinars, and digital education content; plans and reviews available educational opportunities through the Association; and ensures that the Association is a leading provider of land title education in Virginia. 

Events Committee

The Events Committee offers recommendations for social activities, themes, and more for all events in coordination with the Executive Director. They will assist with all the social activities for the events. 

Examiner Committee

The Examiner Committee publishes three times a year an Association news publication. The Examiner magazine reflects the mission and vision of VLTA, and is reviewed and shaped by the Board of Directors through the Director of the Examiner

Legislative Affairs Committee

The Legislative Committee has the responsibility of analyzing and recommending appropriate action with respect to all proposed legislation affecting ownership of real property (and interests therein), or that may affect the land title industry in any way. 

Member Resources Committee

The Membership Committee endeavors to increase and retain membership in, or affiliation with, the Association through the development of member benefits and outreach. 

So give yourself the Gift of Change for Christmas and volunteer for VLTA. Our Executive Director, Katie Herndon, vlta@vlta.org will be more than happy to assist you all.

May everyone have a wonderful Holiday Season!

Myrna Keplinger, President

READ PAST MESSAGES HERE