NAR Urges Swift Passage of Remote Notarization Bill

March 24, 2020

The National Association of REALTORS® has sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to include policy in coronavirus response legislation that would pave the way for remote notarizations nationally and make it easier to complete transactions entirely digitally as the coronavirus crisis deepens. The Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020, also known as the SECURE Notarization Act, was introduced last Wednesday by a bipartisan coalition of senators and has already garnered broad support across the real estate industry.

Twenty-three states have remote online notarization policies, which permit a notary and signer in different physical locations to safely execute electronic documents. But borrowers in more than half of the states remain unable to close a real estate transaction without an in-person notary. “As the nation and world grapple with some of the most difficult and uncertain circumstances of our lives, NAR continues working with the federal government to secure policy to promote public safety and protect this critical driver of our nation’s economy,” NAR President Vince Malta said in a statement.

To address fraud and security concerns, the SECURE Notarization Act requires multifactor authentication, use of tamper-evident technology, and use of two-way, real-time audiovisual technology to enable the signer and notary to see and hear each other simultaneously.

The reliability and validity of notarized public records is central to the real estate market and provides a foundation for all parties when mortgaging, purchasing, and selling real property, NAR says. An electronic notarization takes place when the notarial seal, signature, or certificate is created, placed, and stored electronically. Beyond real estate transactions, the SECURE Notarization Act would allow Americans to execute legal, healthcare, financial, and other vital documents from the safety of their own homes.

Addressing concerns that the legislation will prohibit states from promulgating their own notary training policies, NAR clarified that the bill sets the floor—not the ceiling—for use of remote online notarization and doesn’t prevent states from passing their own laws or setting their own regulations. States that have already enabled the use of RON would have to meet the proposed minimum national standards under the SECURE Notarization Act. Minimum regulations set forth in the act aim to ensure consumers are adequately protected when using RON. In addition to the 23 states that have already passed RON legislation, 13 other states are considering following suit.