Volume 5, No. 3 - March 2016

Compliance Corner

This section has been created to assist you in keeping your insurance business in compliance. The items are intended as reminders only. Note: Division publications may include references to the Florida Statutes and/or the Florida Administrative Code. The laws noted in our publications are/were in effect at the time of publication but may have been repealed, amended or replaced and new laws may have been enacted subsequently.

Compliance Topic of the Month: Unlawful Inducements Related to Title Insurance Transactions - Q & A

In an effort to further clarify recently adopted Rule 69B-186.010, Florida Administrative Code, following are common questions and our answers that illustrate how the rule is applied:

  • Does the new rule apply to attorneys and law firms?
    • Yes.
  • Is anyone training or regulating the realtors to keep them from asking for unlawful inducements?
    • We’ve communicated information related to law, including the rule, to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and the Florida Realtor’s Association. We’ll continue to communicate and educate the industry.
  • Is it acceptable for a vendor that a title agency does business with (i.e. an appraiser, termite company, home inspection company, etc.) to provide coupons for a discount to the title agencies customers?
    • It is acceptable for the vendor to do so.
  • What is the Department of Financial Services' position on whether a title agent can advance the cost of an estoppel letter from a homeowners association if the agent expects to receive reimbursement at closing?
    • 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 good faith efforts to request and obtain reimbursement.
  • Can a title agency print bulletins for a real estate agent if it charges actual cost?
    • Yes and you can make a profit you wish.
  • Can a title agency email its contacts Realtor flyers for listings and open houses which do not contain the title agency’s name?
    • No because you’re providing the Realtor free leads and doing the work for the Realtor for free.
  • Can a title agency have a raffle at an event to promote its own business?
    • Yes.
    Gift Card
  • Can a title agency donate a gift card to be raffled off at an event given by a realtor?
    • Yes if it is to promote the business of the title agent/agency and not the realtor.
  • Can a title agency attend an open house and provide refreshments, and if so, is there a dollar limit on the refreshments?
    • Yes, if it is to promote the business of the title agent/agency.
    • No, if it is to promote the business of the realtor or their open house.
      There is no dollar limit on food. However, if you wish to share in the costs of the food and drink for an open house with a realtor, you must pay a proportional share of those costs. You cannot provide food and drinks for the realtor’s open house at no cost to them.
  • Can a title agency contribute towards the cost of publicizing an open house?
    • Yes if it is to promote the business of the title agent/agency, not the realtor, and is proportionately split among the parties hosting or putting on the open house.
  • Would it be a violation for a title agency that is attorney owned to sponsor and cater realtor open houses?
    • Yes.
  • Is there a limit on how many $25 promotional items that a title agency can give to any particular referrer of settlement business?
    • No.
  • Can my title agency invite real estate professionals to our office to hear an educational presentation by an expert in some field related to real estate closings, such as a CPA with expertise in FIRPTA (Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act) or a surveyor?
    • Yes.
  • During the presentation, can we serve lunch or other refreshments?
    • Yes because this is part of the event you are putting on to educate and promote yourself.
  • Is paying the speaker allowable?
    • Yes because you are paying the expert for their time. However, you cannot over pay a speaker as a way to reward them for sending business to you.
  • Our title agency would like to have a monthly networking, relationship-building event with local real estate agents, such as a wine tasting, a cooking class etc. Some invitees already give us business, some would be real estate agents we would like to get business from. Is this permissible as long as our per person cost does not exceed the $25 limit?
    • Yes but the $25 limit does not apply here because the limit only applies to items of articles of merchandise for the purposes of advertising, which these are not.
  • What if our per person cost is say $35, and the real estate agent pays $10 per person; would that be okay?
    • If you want to have them pay some of the costs of these events, that would be okay.
  • Can our title agency participate in a program like "Homes for Heroes"?
    • You can offer a rebate to the “heroes” that meet the classification. It may be a good idea to include somewhere on your marketing material how this is done in case a competitor feels you are offering an unlawful inducement when you’re actually offering a rebate of your portion of the premium to the person paying the premium. This would need to be properly documented in your file and on the Closing Disclosure.
      The Florida Insurance Code does not regulate the amount a title agency can charge for closing services; however, the fee charged must at minimum include the actual costs, fees or charges the agency must pay related to the closing.

Bail Bond Agents: Solicitation at Jails, Prisons, Etc.

A bail bond agent may not directly or indirectly solicit for business at the jail, prison or any place where prisoners are confined. The Florida Statutes' definition of soliciting at the jail includes, but is not limited to:

  • Distributing business cards or flyers
  • Print advertisements
  • Any written information directed to the prisoners or inmates
  • Any oral communication directed to the prisoners or inmates

The only permissible advertising at the jail is the listing in the telephone book, and the posting of the agent or agency's name, address and phone number on the approved list of bail bond agents created by the jail.

This statute prohibits a bail bond agent or bail bond agency from placing an advertisement in a magazine that is distributed primarily to inmates or prisoners of a jail. Bail bond agents found to be in violation of this statute may be subject to a license suspension for three (3) months for the first offense and a license suspension of 12 to 24 months for the second and subsequent offenses. [See Section 648.44(1)(b), Florida Statutes and Chapter 69B-241.080(2), F.A.C.]

Life and Health Agents: Working from Home?

Many life and health agents rent space in a "virtual office" that are typically just conference rooms where the agent can meet with the clients outside of their home. However, the agent's home is usually the place where records are stored. Therefore the agent's home address should be listed as the business address on file with the Department, not the location of the rented space. The Department may visit a licensee's home office to audit their insurance records.

You can easily update your address (and other demographic information) online via your MyProfile account.
[See Sections 626.551 and 626.749, Florida Statutes]

Working in the Industry After Being Suspended or Revoked

The Florida Insurance Code clearly states that it is unlawful during the period of suspension or revocation of a license or appointment for the former licensee to engage in or attempt or profess to engage in any transaction or business for which a license or appointment is required. This prohibition extends until the license is reinstated or, if revoked, a new license issued. Furthermore, the former licensee or appointee may not directly or indirectly own, control, or be employed in any manner by an agent, agency, adjuster, or adjusting firm.

Any former licensee or appointee in violation of this law commits a felony of the third degree, subjecting themselves to further action by the Department up to and including criminal prosecution.

Before hiring someone to work at your agency or firm we suggest you check to ensure that their license is not currently suspended or revoked using our website's Licensee Search portal. [See Sections 626.015 and 626.641, Florida Statutes]

Title Agency Data Call 2016

2016 marks the second year title insurance agencies are required to submit information to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) under the data call required by section 627.782(8), Florida Statutes. Title agencies have until June 1, 2016 to make their submission to the OIR. The OIR will send an email to each licensed title agency in Florida to remind them of the new law with instructions on how to complete the process accurately.

The Title Agency Data Call is performed by the title agency by first downloading the template from the OIR website to complete offline. To do this, the agency will need to create an account and subscribe to your agency in the Data Collection and Analysis Modules (DCAM) used by the OIR, which is located at https://apps.fldfs.com/DCAM/Logon.aspx.
(The user's guide for DCAM is located at: https://apps.fldfs.com/DCAM/Help/DCAMUserGuide.pdf)

Once the agency's data template form is completed and the agency is ready to certify it is accurate, the agency must upload the form to the OIR before the deadline, June 1, 2016.

The data template has seven tabs or worksheets:

  1. Version: includes the OIR contact information and reporting date reminder
  2. Instructions: data template must be downloaded from DCAM for the purpose of reporting information
  3. Report_Lines: Two columns extend down a series of questions and required responses (enter either text or numeric characters in the two columns, as shown)
  4. Schedule A: Additional agency information
  5. Schedule B: Agent activities
  6. Schedule C (Residential): Title agent statistical information submission for 1-4 residential units
  7. Schedule C (Commercial): Title agent statistical information submission for commercial units

Each agency's submission must contain a Filing Certification signed by an agency officer (electronic signature accepted), stating the information provided is accurate to the best of their knowledge and belief. A sample copy is available on the OIR's website at: www.floir.com/siteDocuments/CertificationOfTitleDataSubmissionExample.pdf

The agency may include a cover letter, but this is an optional component for the filing.

Each agency is encouraged to include any additional or optional information that is deemed important to the overall submission. These optional items may be uploaded as PDF documents under the "Other Information/Documents" component. A filing will not be recorded as complete unless the agency clicks on "Submit".

PLEASE NOTE:

It is important to know that the agency's submission is not considered to be complete until the agency receives an email receipt showing the agency's file log number. If you make a submission but do not receive the confirmation email, please let OIR know.

If you have any questions regarding this filing process, please contact the OIR's Market Data Collections Unit at 850-413-3147 or via email: TitleAgencyReporting@floir.com.

Compliance Information

Department licensees and consumers can access compliance information at the Division's web page Compliance Information. Additional information is available by type of license at our Frequently Asked Questions web page.