The Signing Professionals Workgroup (SPW), a committee of lenders and title companies, has created industry best-practice standards for notaries handling loan signings – the Certified Signing Specialist Standards.
The National Notary Association (NNA), tapped by the SPW as an advisor and non-voting member, says SPW will implement the new standards over the coming months and anticipates the rollout will be completed by mid-2014.
According to the NNA, these standards were established to ensure borrowers have an improved customer experience and to comply with federal regulations regarding service providers.
"After the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued the "Service Providers' Bulletin in April 2012, financial institutions have been held accountable for verifying the credentials of their third-party service providers," explains Thomas Heymann, president and CEO of the NNA. "Until now, there were no consistent or broadly acceptable standards for the notaries who represent lenders at the signing table."
To achieve Certified Signing Specialist status, notaries will be required to meet the following standards, according to the NNA:
-Adherence to the 10 guiding principles of the Certified Signing Specialist Code of Conduct – which cover signer privacy protection, professionalism, unauthorized advice, services and advertising guidelines, as well as reporting illegal or suspicious activity;
-Using a standardized signing script that outlines how a signing should be conducted, how questions can be answered without providing unauthorized advice and when contacting the lender or title company is necessary;
-A passing score on an annual exam covering the signing script, knowledge of loan documents and best practices outlined in the Code of Conduct. Exams will be administered over the coming months by SPW-approved providers after the committee establishes a vendor review process and licenses qualified companies;
-Passing a rigorous annual background screening, including searches in state, local and federal records; and
-Maintaining notary errors and omissions insurance of $25,000.
According to the NNA, every notary who becomes a Certified Signing Specialist will then operate under the same rules and will have the same quality of service expectations for every mortgage signing. The NNA says the SPW will continue its work revising the standards as regulations and market conditions change.