Estoppel Fee Increase, New 2021 ALTA Forms & Vacant Lot Scams

Sorry that time got the better of me and it has been awhile since I reached out to you. So let's get to it! Here are some things that might be of interest.

Estoppel fee increase. I neglected to send this back in July! Per the applicable statute, every 5 years the maximum fee that can be charged for an estoppel fee is adjusted based on changes in the CPI. This year, the adjustment resulted in a maximum fee of $299. See attached memorandum from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

New ALTA Forms coming. New commitment and policy forms are coming, along with some new and revised endorsements. The new forms will be known as the “2021 forms.” The current forms, referred to as the “2006 policies and 2016 commitment,” will continue to be issued until implementation by underwriters and various software systems has been completed. This could take several months so please pay attention to our communications on this topic. We will keep you informed when the 2021 ALTA forms are available on our website, in DoubleTime, in ECDT and various other software providers.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about the new forms, let me know!

Vacant lot scams. We have been reminding/warning you about a significant uptick in vacant lot scams. Fraudsters are identifying vacant properties owned by a person/entity with a non-US address and then duping the real estate agent and closing agent into closing the transaction with the fraudster pretending to be the true owner. Recently a Member stopped two scams from happening (and saved two claims!) by simply sending a letter to the owner at the address listed on the property appraiser website via overnight delivery, asking them to confirm that the property was being sold. In both cases, the true owner contacted the Member and said they were NOT selling their lot. Whew!  A simple solution and one we have suggested in a recent Fund Alert. Here's a link to the Alert published in April 2022.

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

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