Rule 69O-186.008, F.A.C., prohibits you or your title insurer from endangering the funds entrusted to you through the escrow process. The Florida Statutes provide detailed directions as to the types of accounts and investments that may be used for escrow accounts. These requirements are the same for the entire day, not just during business hours. Section 626.8473(3), F.S., states the funds must be immediately placed in a financial institution that is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). This means the funds may be invested in any type of investment that meets the requirements of section 17.57, F.S., as long as it is an account that is maintained with a member of the FDIC or the NCUSIF.
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. It covers Unlawful Inducements Related to Title Insurance Transactions. The purpose of this rule is to interpret subparagraph 626.9541(1)(h)3., 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.
Title agents must maintain records for 7 years pursuant to section 627.7845(2), F.S., which states:
"The title insurer shall cause the evidence of the determination of insurability and the reasonable title search or search of the records of a Uniform Commercial Code filing office to be preserved and retained in its files or in the files of it’s title insurance agent or agency for a period of not less than 7 years after the title insurance commitment, title insurance policy, or guarantee of title was issued. The title insurer must produce the evidence required to be maintained by this subsection at its offices upon the demand of the office. Instead of retaining the original evidence, the title insurer may, in the regular course of business, establish a system under which all or part of the evidence is recorded, copied, or reproduced by any photographic, photo static, microfilm, micro card, miniature photographic, or other process which accurately reproduces or forms a durable medium for reproducing the original."
Contractual agreements between the title agent and the insurer that require the agent to maintain such records are NOT regulated by the bureau.
Escrow Account records must be maintained in accordance with rule 690-186.009, F.A.C., states "Every licensed title insurance agent shall maintain a monthly reconciliation of every escrow account required to be maintained pursuant to section 626.8473, F.S., and shall, on a monthly basis, report such reconciliation together with appropriate supporting documentation to each title insurer which licensed the agent during the reconciliation period. The reconciliation shall be supported by appropriate documentation, including a monthly bank statement, a list of all outstanding checks as of the date of the reconciliation which is not shown on the monthly bank statement, and a trial balance of the escrow ledger records required to be maintained by subsection (2). Licensed title insurance agents and title insurers shall provide a copy of the monthly escrow account reconciliation to the Office upon Its request. Such records shall be maintained by the title insurer for a period of five years." Also part (2) states, "Every licensed title insurance agent shall maintain a separate ledger card for each real estate closing transaction for which funds are received in escrow. The ledger card shall contain chronological entries of dates and amounts of moneys received and disbursed including the name of the remitter and payee and each check number issued on such escrow account. Such records shall be maintained by the title insurance agent for a period of three years. The ledger card required by this rule may be maintained in computer storage with a print-out available upon request of a title insurer or the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR).
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.