New Forms & New Priorities for New Year

Hello Members!

This is likely my last blog posting for 2023 so happy holidays and best wishes for 2024. If you are traveling, safe travels and I hope your transportation goes without any hitches. I am lucky that my family "lives local" and so we will be together with less effort than most! 

So here is what is top of mind for me this week.

New ALTA 2021 forms reminder.  Beginning January 1, 2024, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will require use of the 2021 ALTA policy forms for all loans. The previous 2006 forms will no longer be accepted.  If your closing software permits you to choose which versions of the policy forms to use, be sure to select only the 2021 jackets and forms when preparing your commitments and policies going forward. The software companies have had plenty of time to accommodate the new forms so I hope you are already using them in your transactions. BTW, ClosingVue and DoubleTime have both been updated to include the new forms. If you are a DoubleTime user, you need to be sure you installed the update that would have been made available some time ago.

Attorney Opinion Letters update.  We haven't talked much about Attorney Opinion Letters and FNMA recently, have we? Unfortunately, I have some disappointing news to report. Despite the ongoing dialogue the industry has had with FHFA/FNMA/FreddieMac about alternative title assurance products (including the pilot FNMA was considering to forego any type of title assurance at all), FNMA has moved forward with expanding the types of loans on which an AOL is an acceptable option. Now, loans involving condominiums and properties subject to restrictive agreements or restrictive covenants (i.e., HOAs) are now allowed to have either a title insurance policy or an attorney title opinion letter. This significantly expands the group of transactions in which AOLs will be presented to a borrower as an alternative. This is now back to the very tippy top of ALTA's priorities. Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation has been informed of this change too. Please share any information you receive about the use of AOLs on transactions in your area. This is so, so important to our industry and we need to avoid being "asleep at the wheel."  Let me know what's going on, please. Thanks.

Legislative preview.  There are several bills already filed for the upcoming legislative session to which we are paying a lot of attention.  The session is an early one: January 9 through March 8, 2024. Here are a few that might be of interest:

  • SB 278: eliminates fees for the preparation and delivery of estoppel certificates from condominiums, HOAs and cooperatives. Yes, you read that correctly: eliminates.
  • SB 356: increases penalties for notaries that violate the requirements of the law; if the violation pertains to a real estate transaction, then the penalties are higher; requires all notaries to maintain an electronic journal of their official acts; provides that the property appraiser may choose to not update its records if they "reasonably determine" that a fraudulent deed has been recorded.
  • SB 484: requires a disclosure regarding past flooding on a property prior to a contract signing.
  • HB 621: abolishes adverse possession. Will just leave it at that!

As you can see, there is a lot going on! I will keep you posted as bills morph and progress through the system. Of course, the best way to stay current is to attend Fund Assembly next May and get all of the information about new laws that might impact your practice! Look for registration information in early 2024.

That's all for this week… and this year!  Let me know how we can help you.


Melissa Jay Murphy
Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer,
and General Counsel