Bill pending in Congress would allow remote online notarizations

A bill pending in Congress would approve the use of remote online notarizations, making it easier to close on houses even if you cannot meet in person.

The measure, called the “Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020,” would allow every notary across the country to perform remote online notarizations. The bill was introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).

At the current time, nearly half of the states allow remote online notarizations, where a notary and signer of a legal document execute documents electronically from different locations. Iowa, Maryland and Wisconsin recently authorized remote notarizations in response to the pandemic.

Under the bill, the use of electronic notarization would require tamper-resistent technology and multi-factor authentication.

“Americans shouldn’t have to risk their health or safety to execute important financial or legal documents, especially when they could do so from the safety of their own home,” Cramer said in a statement.

While the coronavirus might encourage this measure to move forward more quickly, the issue has been on lawmakers’ radar for a while.

One challenge associated with the bill is that each state has different rules on what is considered a legally executed, remotely notarized document.

The bill, if passed, would not preempt state laws on the matter. Rather, it would complement existing state laws, and allow states to implement their own standards for remote online notarization.

The bill would allow signers outside of the U.S., such as military personnel and their families, to easily and securely notarize documents.

The measure is based on the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations (IRON Act of 2011), but adds additional consumer safeguards.

The American Land Title AssociationMortgage Bankers Association, and the National Association of Realtors have all indicated their support of the measure.

Diane Tomb, CEO of the American Land Title Association, said that the organization “want[s] to provide options to consumers to close their transaction remotely nationwide. … The strong standards in this bill are important to prevent fraud and offer consumers a more secure alternative rather than FaceTime or Skype when buying property or refinancing a mortgage.”

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