7 CFR § 1927.54 - Requirements for closing agents.

§ 1927.54 Requirements for closing agents.

(a) Form of title certification. State Offices are directed to require title insurance for all loan closings unless the agency determines that the use of title insurance is not available or is economically not feasible for the type of loan involved or the area of the state where the loan will be closed. If title insurance is used, State Offices are authorized to require a closing protection letter issued by an approved title insurance company to cover the closing agent, if available. A closing protection letter need not be furnished when the closing is conducted by the title insurance company.

(b) Approval of closing agent. An attorney or title company may act as a closing agent and close agency real estate loans, provide necessary title clearance, and perform such other duties as required in this subpart. A closing agent will be responsible for closing agency loans and disbursing both agency loan funds and funds provided by the borrower in connection with the agency loan so as to obtain title and security position as required by the agency. The closing agent must be covered by a fidelity bond which will protect the agency unless a closing protection letter is provided to the agency. The borrower will select the approved closing agent. If title clearance is by an attorney's opinion, the agency will approve the attorney who will perform the closing in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section. The attorney will be approved after submitting a certification acceptable to the agency. If title certification is by means of a policy of title insurance, the title company which will issue the policy must have been approved in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section. A closing agent's delay in providing services without justification in connection with agency loans may be a basis for not approving the closing agent in future cases.

(c) Approval of attorneys. Any attorney selected by an applicant, who will be providing title clearance where the certificate of title will be an attorney's opinion, must submit an agency form certifying to professional liability insurance coverage. If the attorney is also the closing agent, fidelity coverage for the attorney and any employee having access to the funds must be provided. The agency will determine the appropriate level of such insurance. Required insurance will, as a minimum, cover the amount of the loan to be closed. The agency will approve the form stipulating the bond coverage. The agency will approve any attorney who is duly licensed to practice law in the state where the real estate security is located and who complies with the bonding and insurance requirements in this section. If the certification of title will be by means of title insurance, any attorney or closing agent designated as an approved attorney or closing agent by the approved title insurance company which will issue the policy of title insurance will be acceptable, and when covered by a closing protection letter, will not be required to obtain professional liability insurance or a fidelity bond. Each approved title insurance company may provide a master list of their approved attorneys that are covered by its closing protection letters to the State Office and, in such cases the attorneys are approved for closings for that title insurance company. Delay in providing closing services without justification may be a basis for not approving the attorney in future cases.

(d) Approval of title companies. A title company acting as a closing agent, or as an issuing agent for a title insurance company, must be covered by a title insurance company closing protection letter or submit an agency form certifying to fidelity coverage to cover all employees having access to the loan funds. The agency will determine the appropriate level of such coverage and will approve the form stipulating the bond coverage. Delay in providing closing services without justification may be a basis for not approving the company in future cases. Each approved title insurance company may provide a master list of their approved title companies that are covered by its closing protection letter to the State Office and, in such cases the title companies on the list are approved for closings for that title insurance company.

(e) Approval of title insurance companies. The agency will approve any title insurance company which issues policies of title insurance in the State where the security property is located if:

(1) The form of the owner's and lender's policies of title insurance (including required endorsements) to be used in closing agency loans are acceptable to the agency, and will contain only standard types of exceptions and exclusions approved in advance by the agency;

(2) The title insurance company is licensed to do business in the state (if a license is required); and

(3) The title insurance company is regulated by a State Insurance Commission, or similar regulator, or if not, the title insurance company submits copies of audited financial statements, or other approved financial statements satisfactory to the agency, which show that the company has the financial ability to cover losses arising out of its activities as a title insurance company and under any closing protection letters issued by the title insurance company.

(4) Delay in providing services without justification may be a basis for not approving the company.

(f) [Reserved]

(g) Conflict of interest. A closing agent who has, or whose spouse, children, or business associates have, a financial interest in the real estate which will secure the agency debt shall not be involved in the title clearance or loan closing process. Financial interest includes having either an equity, creditor, or debtor interest in any corporation, trust, or partnership with a financial interest in the real estate which will secure the agency debt.

(h) Debarment or suspension. No attorney, title company, title insurance company, or closing agent, currently debarred or suspended from participating in Federal programs, may participate in any aspect of the agency loan closing and title clearance process.

(i) Special provisions. Closing agents are responsible for having current knowledge of the requirements of State law in connection with loan closing and title clearance and should advise the agency of any changes in State law which necessitate changes in the agency's State mortgage forms and State Supplements.

(j) [Reserved]

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