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Division Director

Greg Thomas


Insurance Agent and Agency Services
200 East Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0318
Bureau of Licensing
(850) 413-3137
Bureau of Investigation
(850) 413-3136
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Compliance Information: Title Insurance Agencies

As a licensee it’s important you have access to information that helps you keep your insurance business in compliance. This section (along with Insurance Insights and other Department communications) is an important tool to help you meet that goal.

However, these tools are not and cannot replace statutes, department rules, orders or case law. The items below are intended as reminders only and are not necessarily the exact text of the Florida Statutes or Florida Administrative Code. The legal cites have been provided for your further reference. In addition to state compliance issues, it is important to maintain compliance with federal laws, rules, and regulations, including but not limited to RESPA, TILA, TRID, and GLBA.

Administrative Surcharge

Each licensed title insurance agency must pay $200 as an administrative surcharge on or before January 30 of each and every year as provided in 624.501(27)(e)2, F.S.

Any title agency paying late is subject to penalty including, but not limited to, fines and/or suspension or revocation of their license and appointments.

Surcharge payments must be paid online via the title agency's MyProfile account.

For additional information, see the Title Administrative Surcharge page.

Agency Name

A title agency "…shall not adopt a name which contains the words "title insurance," "title guaranty," or "title guarantee," unless such words are followed by the word "agent" or "agency" in the same size and type as the words preceding them…" Please see section 626.8413, F.S.

Agent In Charge (AIC)

Florida law requires that a title agency must have a designated agent in charge. The agent in charge for a title agency must be a licensed and appointed title agent or an attorney in good standing with the Florida Bar.

Each branch location must have an AIC. Title agencies (including any branch offices) are subject to the provisions of section 626.0428, F.S.

Branch Offices

Licensing

Title agencies are not required to have separate branch licenses (though some still have them). The license of the main office may be used for each branch location, which means that a violation discovered at one branch could affect all the locations. Branch offices that perform closing services only do not need to be licensed and do not need a licensed agent at that location.

The agent in charge can be the same as another location as long as there are not any title insurance transactions taking place while the agent in charge is not present unless another licensed and appointed title agent is present at that location.

Agent In Charge (AIC)

Title agencies (including any branch offices) are subject to the provisions of section 626.0428, F.S. Each branch location that does title insurance work must designate an agent in charge and notify the department of the identity of the person and Florida license number designated as well as the location of the branch. The easiest way to notify the Department of this required information is by email to AgentLicensing@MyFloridaCFO.com.

Errors & Omissions Insurance

A title insurance agency is required to carry errors and omissions insurance in an amount acceptable to the insurer appointing the agency. The amount of coverage may not be less than $250,000 per claim with a deductible no greater than $10,000. Please see 626.8419(1)(b), F.S.

Escrow Accounts

A title insurance agent may engage in business as an escrow agent as to funds received from others to be subsequently disbursed by the title insurance agent in connection with real estate closing transactions involving the issuance of title insurance binders, commitments, policies of title insurance, or guarantees of title, provided that a licensed and appointed title insurance agent complies with the requirements of section 626.8417, F.S., including such requirements added after the initial licensure of the agent.

All funds received by a title insurance agent as escrow funds shall be trust funds received in a fiduciary capacity by the title insurance agent and shall be the property of the person or persons entitled thereto.

All funds received by a title insurance agent to be held in trust shall be immediately placed in a financial institution that is located within this state and is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. These funds shall be invested in an account in accordance with the investment requirements and standards established for deposits and investments of state funds in section 17.57, F.S., where the funds shall be kept until disbursement thereof is properly authorized.

Funds required to be maintained in escrow trust accounts pursuant to this section shall not be subject to any debts of the title insurance agent and shall be used only in accordance with the terms of the individual, escrow, settlement, or closing instructions under which the funds were accepted.

Both title insurance agents and agencies shall maintain separate records of all receipts and disbursements of escrow, settlement, or closing funds.

In the event that the department promulgates rules necessary to implement the requirements of this section pursuant to section 624.308, F.S., the department shall consider reasonable standards necessary for the protection of funds held in trust, including, but not limited to, standards for accounting of funds, standards for receipt and disbursement of funds, and protection for the person or persons to whom the funds are to be disbursed. Please see: 626.8473, F.S.

Fidelity Bond

Title insurance agencies must obtain a fidelity bond in an amount not less than $50,000 and acceptable to the insurer appointing the agency.  See: 626.8419(1)(a), F.S. The Department does not maintain a copy of this bond as part of the agency’s license file.

HUD 1, Closing Disclosure, or Settlement Statement Form

The Florida Statutes defines closing services as the services performed by a licensed title insurer, title insurance agent or agency, or attorney agent in the agent’s or agency's capacity as such, including, but not limited to, preparing documents necessary to close the transaction, conducting the closing, or handling the disbursing of funds related to the closing in a real estate closing transaction in which a title insurance commitment or policy is to be issued.

This means the closing services fee listed on the settlement statement form is to include all the fees and charges made by the agency to close and complete the transaction. Consumers should not be charged additional fees in addition to the amount listed as the closing or settlement services fee on the HUD-1, Closing Disclosure, or other settlement statement form.

Examples of fees that should not be listed as separate line items on the form include, but are not limited to:

  • Postage and handling
  • Notary services
  • Copies
  • Digital documents
  • Document preparation fees
  • Document storage or warehousing fees
  • Electronic conversion of documents to CD or DVD formats

Agencies that charge additional fees as separate line items may be found to be engaging in deceptive practices against Florida consumers in violation of the Florida Statutes. The penalty for violations such as this can be as strong as suspending or revoking the license of the agent and the agency involved in the practice. Agencies may provide consumers with an itemized listing of the fees and charges that comprise the closing services fee being charged. This itemized listing would be in addition to the settlement statement form and the amounts included would need to total to the same number listed on the settlement statement form as the closing services fee.

No other charges are authorized by the Florida Statutes to be charged by a title insurance agent or agency for these services.

Misappropriation

The unlawful withholding of moneys belonging to insurers, insureds, beneficiaries, or to others and received in the conduct of business under your license or appointments. An example would be the failure to forward applications and premium to the insurance company, thus leaving the insureds without coverage. Another form of mishandling fiduciary funds is the licensee’s failure to return unearned premiums.Section 626.611(1)(j) and 626.8437(7), F.S.

Real Estate and Builder Open Houses

Our Department receives a high volume of questions from the title insurance industry. Unfortunately, these questions do not always use consistent terminology making it difficult to determine the true situation and resulting question. It is very important when we communicate with each other that we know what the other is talking about so we can assist the other. Sometimes taking time to describe the term or situation you have a question about will assist the Department with answering your question. This is particularly true when it comes to compliance questions. An example of the areas in which we often get ambiguous questions are real estate open houses. With this situation in mind, here is some guidance that we will try to keep as simple but still provide helpful guidance.

A title agent/agency may market its services to anyone, including real estate agents/brokers and lenders who will be a significant source of new business. The key is that the title agent/agency must market itself and not the broker, lender, or anyone else.

There are multiple types of open houses:

REALTOR:

  • Brokers Open/Brokers Open House: When a real estate broker shows homes they have listed to their realtors or other realtors. Realtor caravans would be an example. (non-public)
  • Open House: When a Realtor holds an open house for a home which they have listed to promote the home for sale to consumers. (public)

BUILDER:

  • Builders Model Homes: Open House/Parade of Homes Event: When a builder hosts an event in a model home to promote the home to Realtors and/or consumers.

A Brokers Open, Brokers Open House, and certain Builders events are times when a title agency should be extra cautious of violating the Florida Insurance Code and RESPA. No members of the general public, no sellers, and no buyers are in attendance. A byproduct of this meeting will be the discussions the brokers have with each other where they let each other know about the inventory each one has available for sale. The thinking is that one of the other brokers may have a buyer that will be more receptive to paying the full asking price.

An Open House to the public is different than those detailed above because this is an opportunity for the title agent/agency to take full advantage of their audience to explain what they do and why they are better at doing it than any other title agent/agency.

Regardless of the event type, the title agency may only advertise its own services and not perform any of the duties or functions of the broker selling the home. The title agency may have food and beverages, but that must be accompanied by materials showing what the title agency does and can do for the consumer. A title agency may NOT just drop off food or solely provide food/beverages for these events. A title agency MUST attend the event and promote its agency during the event. The title agency cannot describe the home, give tours to people visiting the home, distribute flyers about the home, "man the event" without a Realtor or builder sales associate present, promote any broker listings, etc., as these are duties and functions of the real estate broker, Realtor or builder sales associate.

Marketing these open houses and others' events by the title agent/agency are prohibited. Licensees and persons subject to the Florida Insurance Code should refamiliarize themselves with it for compliance. Specifically, Rule 69B-186.010, F.A.C., regarding guidance in this area should be reviewed prior to any title agent/agency considering promoting open houses on their Facebook or other social media or other types of solicitation at the title agency's own time, resources and expenses, no matter how quick and inexpensive.

Any licensee of the Department of Financial Services found to have conducted these acts is subject to discipline for violation of the Florida Insurance Code. Any other person will be referred to the appropriate state or federal agency/board, etc.

Violations by the title insurance industry can be reported to Title@MyFloridaCFO.com. Please email or forward as much information as you can. Please note that this guidance is not all-inclusive and any person subject to the Florida Insurance Code and/or RESPA should seek legal advice or contact their association prior to proceeding with any regulated activity.

[See Section 626.9541, F.S. and Rule 69B-186.010, F.A.C.]

Rebates and Unlawful Inducements

Title agents and agencies are permitted to rebate all or part of their share of the title insurance premium as the result of a Florida Supreme Court decision in the case of Chicago Title Insurance Company v. Butler, No. 95312 (Fla. Oct. 19, 2000). This decision allows a title insurance agent or agency to rebate any portion of the agent’s share of the premium to the person responsible for paying that premium. However, a rebate may not be provided to any third party as an inducement for the referral of business to the title insurance agent or agency.

The Department believes that it is a violation of subparagraph 626.9541(1)(h)3., Florida Statutes, and subsection 69B-186.010(4)(a), Florida Administrative Code, for a title insurance agent and/or agency to pay for an estoppel certificate without being reimbursed for the expenditure. However, if a title insurance agent and/or agency pay for an estoppel certificate, and the title insurance agent or agency is reimbursed at closing for the estoppel certificate, such advance payment for the estoppel certificate does not constitute an "unlawful rebate." If the closing falls through then the title agent/agency should make efforts to request and obtain reimbursement.

Rule 69B-186.010, F.A.C., became effective on February 9, 2016 and was last amended on May 13, 2018. It covers Unlawful Rebates and Inducements Related to Title Insurance Transactions. The purpose of this rule interprets subparagraph 626.9541(1)(h), F.S., which provides that it is an unfair method of competition and unfair or deceptive act or practice prohibited by Section 626.9521, F.S., to engage in certain activities related to title insurance. All lists contained within this rule are intended as examples and are not exhaustive. This rule does not prohibit inducements or rebates provided by filed or approved rates or rating manuals, advertising gifts allowed by paragraph 626.9541(1)(m), F.S., or inducements and rebates otherwise expressly allowed by law.

  1. Does the rule apply to attorneys and law firms?
    Yes.
  2. Is anyone training or regulating the realtors to keep them from asking for unlawful inducements?
    We’ve communicated information related to law, including the rule, to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and the Florida Realtor’s Association. We’ll continue to communicate and educate the industry.
  3. Is it acceptable for a vendor that a title agency does business with (i.e. an appraiser, termite company, home inspection company, etc.) to provide coupons for a discount to the title agency's customers?
    It is acceptable for the vendor to do so.
  4. What is the Department of Financial Services' position on whether a title agent can advance the cost of an estoppel letter from a homeowners association if the agent expects to receive reimbursement at closing?
    The Department believes that it is a violation of subparagraph 626.9541(1)(h)3., Florida Statutes, and subsection 69B-186.010(4)(a), Florida Administrative Code, for a title insurance agent and/or agency to pay for an estoppel certificate without being reimbursed for the expenditure. However, if a title insurance agent and/or agency pay for an estoppel certificate, and the title insurance agent or agency is reimbursed at closing for the estoppel certificate, such advance payment for the estoppel certificate does not constitute an "unlawful rebate". If the closing falls through, the title agent/agency should make good faith efforts to request and obtain reimbursement.
    For example, §720.30851(8) F.S., states, in part, that "if the certificate is requested in conjunction with the sale or mortgage of a parcel but the closing does not occur and no later than 30 days after the closing date for which the certificate was sought the preparer receives a written request, accompanied by reasonable documentation, that the sale did not occur from a payor that is not the parcel owner, the fee shall be refunded to that payor within 30 days after receipt of the request."
  5. Can a title agency print bulletins for a real estate agent if it charges actual cost?
    Yes, and you can make a profit you wish.
  6. Can a title agency email its contacts realtor flyers for listings and open houses which do not contain the title agency’s name?
    No, because you’re providing the realtor free leads and doing the work for the realtor for free.
  7. Can a title agency have a raffle at an event to promote its own business?
    Yes.
  8. Can a title agency donate a gift card to be raffled off at an event given by a realtor?
    Yes, if it is to promote the business of the title agent/agency and not the realtor.
  9. Can a title agency attend an open house and provide refreshments, and if so, is there a dollar limit on the refreshments?
    • Yes, if it is to promote the business of the title agent/agency.
    • No, if it is to promote the business of the realtor or their open house.
      There is no dollar limit on food. However, if you wish to share in the costs of the food and drink for an open house with a realtor, you must pay a proportional share of those costs. You cannot provide food and drinks for the realtor’s open house at no cost to them.
  10. Can a title agency contribute towards the cost of publicizing an open house?
    Yes, if it is to promote the business of the title agent/agency, not the realtor, and is proportionately split among the parties hosting or putting on the open house.
    The charge to each provider should be equal to that provider’s share of the advertising cost in direct proportion to its prominence in the advertisement. For example, if realtor content takes up 80% of the total ad space, while title agent content takes up only 20%, the most the title agent/agency should pay is 20%.
  11. Would it be a violation for a title agency to sponsor and cater realtor open houses?
    Yes.This answer also applies to attorney-owned title agencies, affiliated-business title agencies, and title insurers.
  12. Is there a limit on how many $25 promotional items that a title agency can give to any particular referrer of settlement business?
    No, however, promotional items may not be given in exchange for business referred.
  13. Can my title agency invite real estate professionals to our office to hear an educational presentation by an expert in some field related to real estate closings, such as a CPA with expertise in FIRPTA (Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act) or a surveyor?
    Yes, however, the invitation should not be based solely on business referrals.
  14. During the presentation, can we serve lunch or other refreshments?
    Yes because this is part of the event you are putting on to educate and promote your business.
  15. Is paying the speaker allowable?
    Yes, because you are paying the expert for their time. However, you cannot overpay a speaker to reward them for business referrals.
  16. Our title agency would like to have a monthly networking, relationship-building event with local real estate agents, such as a wine tasting, a cooking class etc. Some invitees already give us business, while others would be real estate agents from whom we would like to get business. Is this permissible provided the per-person cost does not exceed the $25 limit?
    Yes, however, the $25 limit does not apply to the event, as described. The limit only applies to articles of merchandise given for purposes of advertising. So, for example, if you were to host a wine tasting event and wanted to provide attendees with a wine glass engraved with your company name and logo for purposes of advertising, the $25 limit would apply to the wine glass, not the wine tasting event itself.
  17. What if the per-person cost to host a monthly networking, relationship-building event with local real estate agents is $35 and the real estate agents who attend each pay $10, reducing our cost to $25 per-person. Is this okay?
    As stated above, the $25 limit applies to articles of merchandise given for purposes of advertising. It does not apply to the event, as described. Therefore, if you want to have attendees pay a portion of the cost of the event, that is okay, however it is not mandatory that you do so.
  18. Can our title agency participate in a program like "Homes for Heroes"?
    You can offer a rebate to the “heroes” that meet the classification. Consider including a statement on your marketing material that this is a rebate of your agency portion of the title premium, in case a competitor feels you are offering an unlawful inducement. The rebate must be properly documented in your file and on the Closing Disclosure.
    The Florida Insurance Code does not regulate the amount a title agency can charge for closing services; however, the fee charged must at minimum include the actual costs, fees or charges the agency must pay related to the closing.


Recording Deed and Mortgage

The liability to the insurance company remains open ended until the deed and the mortgage are properly recorded. Therefore, it is in everyone's best interest to record these documents as soon after the closing as possible. Failing to record the documents could create a claim for the insurer, which could put the agency in violation of the Florida Statutes, as well as jeopardize the agency's contract to represent that title insurer.

Referral Fees

The Florida Statutes prohibit title insurance agents and agencies from paying, allowing, giving, or offering to pay, allow or give a direct or indirect inducement for the purchase of title insurance. Paying someone for each piece of business they send to you could be considered an inducement, which would be a violation of the statutes. See subsection 626.9541(1)(h)3.a., F.S.

This section DOES include paying employees of the title agency who are not licensed and appointed as title insurance agents. An example would be a title insurance agency that pays a marketing representative who is not licensed for each title insurance policy sold.

Surety Bond

A title insurance agency is required to obtain a surety bond in an amount not less than $35,000 made payable to the title insurer or title insurers appointing the agency. The surety bond must be for the benefit of any appointing title insurer damaged by a violation by the title insurance agency of its contract with the appointing title insurer. If the surety bond is payable to multiple title insurers, the surety bond must provide that each title insurer is to be notified in the event a claim is made upon the surety bond or the bond is terminated. The surety bond must remain in effect and unimpaired as long as the agency is appointed by a title insurer. The agency must provide written proof to the appointing title insurer or insurers on an annual basis evidencing that the surety bond is still in effect and unimpaired. See section 626.8419, F.S.

Title Insurance Agency Fees

The Department of Financial Services (Department) is often asked to advise if certain fees are allowable and where these fees are to be recorded on the closing disclosure and/or HUD settlement forms. The Department can answer these concerns very simply:

  1. The Florida Department of Financial Services does not regulate the amount of each fee charged as part of a closing.
  2. These forms were developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Questions about how to complete these forms should be directed to the CFPB at www.consumerfinance.gov.

The Department is charged with making sure Florida consumers are not deceived by our licensees when they purchase title insurance and close on a property.

As part of any inspection or investigation done, the Department will verify at a minimum that the title insurance agent, or agency:

  • Charged the correct premium for the title insurance policy and each of the policy's endorsements.
  • Allocated the premium payment to the proper party as stated in the sales contract.
  • Deposited the funds for the transaction in a separate bank account, as required by 626.8473, F.S.
  • Disbursed the escrow funds as specified in the sales contract, settlement statements, and any other escrow agreement(s).
  • Charged the consumer the same fees the agency advertised or told the consumer would be required to close on the property.
  • Satisfied the problems discovered during the title searches as required by the title insurer.
  • Met all the requirements to assure title is transferred to the new owner, properly, as outlined in the closing documents and sales contracts.

The Florida Statutes defines "closing services" as the service provided by a licensed title insurer, title insurance agent or agency, or attorney agent in the agent's or agency's capacity as such, including, but not limited to, preparing documents necessary to close the transaction, conducting the closing, or handling the disbursing of funds related to the closing in a real estate closing transaction in which a title insurance commitment or policy is to be issued. These are activities that reduce the future liability of the title insurer by making sure the closing was conducted suitably, the correct people signed the appropriate forms, all existing liens were identified and discharged or excluded from coverage, the property was properly identified, existing loans were satisfied, and the new documents were recorded timely in the proper venue.

The Florida Insurance Code does not require the title agent, or agency, to meet these requirements on its own. Title agencies are permitted to hire outside parties to assist in the completion of these duties. When a title insurance agency does this, it must also include these fees in with its closing services fee that it advertises to the public and that it reports to the Office of Insurance regulation (OIR) in its data filing for that year.

Title agencies are permitted to charge the third-party fees as separate line items as long as the consumer has been notified these fees represent responsibilities of the agency, which were contracted to a third party. The consumer must also understand these fees will be charged to them either as part of the closing services fee total, or in addition to the agency's closing services fee. However, in no case should a third-party fee be charged to a consumer in a deceptive or misleading manner. Irrespective of how these fees are charged, the Florida Insurance Code will hold the title agency and its agent in charge responsible for the work product of the vendors selected and/or hired by the agency to perform any services that fall under closing services, primary title services, or the title search, regardless of which party to the transaction pays for these services.

 


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