March 15, 2020
To Our Valued Clients, Longtime Friends, & Colleagues,
In nearly two decades of business, we have never encountered anything close to the situation we're dealing with now, no one has. That said, we are handling it in the same way that we have all matters for all of these years: logically, calmly, and by listening to the experts.
While lengthy, we ask that you take a moment to read the following note. We believe the points below will give you a good indication of where things stand right now in the title business in relation to the outbreak.
For now, it's business as usual at Kriss Law/Atlantic and will continue to be that way until state and/or the Federal government advise us otherwise. However, as a result of taking the precautions suggested to us by those officials, we are starting to see our normal day-to-day business activities altered.
A few notes to make all aware of some of the issues we, and all title providers, are running into as the situation evolves:
- With concern so great, we are running into instances where clients are refusing to meet with our attorneys or staff for closings. In jurisdictions where e-notarization is not permitted, such as our home State of Massachusetts, we are doing our best to offer sanitary options that keep both customers and our folks safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, until this passes, e-notarization or otherwise, it is safe to say that some files will be put on hold. As always, we will work with lender and agent alike to find suitable solutions;
- In Massachusetts and Connecticut, groups of top closing professionals, including Kriss Law/Atlantic, have begun discussions with State officials to temporarily allow e-notarization. Under the circumstances, there are certainly more important issues that are being dealt with but the initiative is being considered and we will provide updates when available;
- In many jurisdictions, several of the government offices key to the closing process--Registries of Deeds, town/city clerks that issue Municipal Lien Certificates or tax bills, etc.--have closed or are prohibiting in-person visits from non-employee third parties. While we are able to e-record and run title online for the most part, the more closures, the more transactions will be delayed;
- In the states where GAP insurance is normally prohibited, Massachusetts and Connecticut for example, we have worked with our title insurers to temporarily have the coverage allowed. Simply, GAP insurance allows a closing to occur, funds to change hands, and lender, seller, and buyer to be protected against any intervening liens or encumbrances that may arise during a period from closing to recording where state offices may be closed and recording impossible;
- In jurisdictions in which we prepare or alter the Purchase and Sale Agreement, we are including a clause providing for buyer, seller, and lender protection related to any COVID-19 delays. It is our opinion that something similar should be used in all real estate contracts for the time being. In that light, we are happy to share our language with anyone who may want to use it;
- We have and will continue to have open dialogues with lenders across the county on the handling of rate locks in the event of a significant shutdown. As those discussion evolve, we will be happy to answer any questions related thereto;
- In regard to Kriss Law/Atlantic's effort to do our part to prevent the spread of the virus and for the safety of our clients and employees, we have had our processing centers deep cleaned, have supplied surface and hand wipes to all staff, made surgical gloves available to our team, are requiring all tables to be wiped down before a closing, are requiring all persons to use their own pen when signing, and mandating that that pen be discarded when use is complete;
- Should the time come when our local and national officials feel that all work should be done remotely, we are prepared to comply. Even if this means that closings and settlements cease for a time, we will still continue to handle contracts and produce title and any other documents that are not affected by a more comprehensive shutdown. Of course, during this time, our attorneys and staff will be available to discuss pending transactions with all clients.
- For those of you who have relied on Kriss Law/Atlantic as your title provider for many years, we are here for you during this trying time. We'll do our best to safely get your transactions closed, to pass on any updated industry information as it arises, and will be available to talk you through any of the many business intricacies we are dealing with currently.
Not only are we in uncharted territory, but the situation seems to be evolving from hour to hour. While in a time like this work is secondary to the health and well being of our families and friends, let us help you deal with the business-related anxiety.
We urge all of you to follow all suggested health best practices during this time and make the most informed decisions possible.
Please consult our website and social media feeds often for industry updates related to the outbreak.
We appreciate your anticipated patience during this time. This will pass and life will be back to normal before you know it. Until then, we'll get through it together.
Kriss Law/Atlantic Closing & Escrow Management Team