State Laws Key to Remote Online Notarization

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Remote online notarization allows consumers to connect virtually with a notary at any time and from anywhere. RON laws and emergency orders passed on the state level helped the real estate industry keep going during the height of the pandemic, allowing for remote closings when millions were under stay-at-home orders.

But some emergency laws are set to expire, and the federal SECURE Notarization Act, which would authorize every notary in the US to perform RONs, has yet to pass.

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In the absence of federal legislation authorizing RON nationwide, a total of 34 states have already passed RON laws and numerous others have pending legislation, said technology and policy experts on Wednesday, during a panel discussion titled, “Remote Online Notarization: How Advocacy Advances Tech for Your Business.” Panelists also provided updates on current legislation being pursued on the state level, and offered advice to real estate professionals on how to get involved and support RON legislation. The panelists presented as part of the 2021 virtual REALTORS® Legislative Meetings.

Alabama is one of the most recent states to work on legislation addressing remote notarization, with a bill that was signed into law in April, authorizing electronic video notarization, said Jeremy Walker, CEO of the Alabama Association of REALTORS®. According to Walker, the effectiveness of the emergency RON order that was issued in the state in April 2020 paved the way for the passage of the current law, helping to assuage the fears of resistant stakeholders such as state senate members, real estate attorneys, and probate judges. “We were able to say, ‘Look, this hasn’t been such a bad thing,’” said Walker. “And we were really able to get them on board.”

Cady Thomas, chief lobbyist with the North Carolina Association of REALTORS®, expressed optimism that her state would soon pass a RON law. A RON bill successfully passed in the North Carolina House, and Thomas remains hopeful that it will also pass the Senate, despite the presence of some known opposition. “It will still have some hiccups and hurdles in the Senate,” said Thomas. “But our bill sponsors are very committed to it.”

To get involved on the state level, REALTORS® can share their own RON experiences with the government affairs team at their state association and with their state lawmakers, said both Walker and Thomas. NAR also has numerous resources on the issue and REALTORS® can text RON to 30644 to get links to both federal and state policy efforts through REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts. As a REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert subscriber, REALTORS® will also get a message sent directly to their mobile device should a call for action be issued on RON with instructions on how best to contact elected officials on the issue.

These state laws are crucial. Even if a federal law is passed, RON legislation will still be necessary on the state level, said Pat Kinsel, CEO of Notarize, a RON company based in Boston and a member of REACH’s class of 2017. “It’s important to allow for state-specific needs,” he said. “Every state has different business practices, market conditions, and dynamics in their communities.”

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