Arkansas Insurance Department
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Title Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

Title Insurance Compliance Officer:  Sarah Harper Gray t: 501-682-5215  f: 501-371-2748
Rules: Rule 87 - Title Insurance
Rule 88 - Title Insurance Licensing and Appointment Fees
 

LICENSING

Q.  What does being a licensed title agent qualify me to do?

The statutory definition of a title insurance agent is: an individual affiliated with a title agency who is authorized on behalf of a title insurer (underwriter) to issue a title insurance report or title insurance policy.  A “person” includes any natural person, or any partnership, association, cooperative, corporation, firm, trust, limited liability company, or other legal entity.  

Q.  Can I be licensed only as an issuing agent or as a signing agent?

No.  There is only one Arkansas Title Insurance Agent license. The title agent license is a comprehensive license.  With some exceptions, anyone who “sells,” “solicits,” or “negotiates” insurance must be licensed as an agent.  Use the chart below as a guide to determine which activities require a license.

ACTIVITIES

LICENSABLE ACTS

NON-LICENSABLE ACTS

Solicit

 

 

Dispense brochures and other general information (so long as no conversation relating to the terms of a title insurance commitment and/or policy)

 

X

Performs marketing duties under the supervision of a title insurance agent

 

X

Gathering and receiving information from a potential policyholder to give to an agent

 

X

Scheduling appointments with a title agent

 

X

Quoting title insurance rates including references to a published or printed list or computer data base of standard rates prepared by a licensed title insurance agent

 

NOTE:  Anyone other than a licensed title agent (including mortgage brokers, realtors and consumers) using any published or printed lists or computer based rate calculators should be made aware that these can only be used to calculate estimates of buyers and sellers closing costs and these rates could be subject to change upon final assessment by a licensed title insurance agent

 

X

 

Calculating title insurance rates subject to reissue rates, enhancements to coverage, endorsements or any deviation from any licensed title insurance agency’s standard published rates

X

 

 

 

 

Negotiate

 

 

Communicating with the policyholder or prospective policyholder in order to obtain factual information necessary to complete a title search of all matters of record

 

X

Explain, discuss or interpret coverage, analyze exposures or policies, or give opinions or recommendations as to coverage

X

 

Counsel, urge or advise any prospective buyer or seller to purchase a particular policy or to insure with a particular company (insurer)

X

 

Conducting a title search

 

X

Examination of title to determine marketability and insurability of title in accordance with the title insurer’s underwriting practices

X

 

Guaranteeing, warranting, or otherwise insuring the status of title, liens, encumbrances, or other matters of record

X

 

Production, issuance and execution of a title insurance commitment or policy

X

 

Sell

 

 

Indicate that requested coverage is or will be bound or issued

X

 

Bind coverage

X

 

An individual performing escrow and real estate closing or settlement services and who does not solicit, sell or negotiate title insurance.

 

X

Providing the document and obtaining purchasers’ and/or borrowers’ signatures on the written notice required by A.C.A. § 23-103-413(b)(1)

 

X

A closing agent that provides closing services but does not otherwise engage in title insurance business

 

X

A closing agent who explains, discusses or interprets coverage, analyzes exposures or policies, or gives opinions or recommendations as to coverage

X

 

 

Definitions:

 

Ark. Code Ann. § 23-64-502(11) "Negotiate" means the act of conferring directly with or offering advice directly to a purchaser or prospective purchaser of a particular contract of insurance concerning any of the substantive benefits, terms, or conditions of the contract, provided that the person engaged in that act either sells insurance or obtains insurance from insurers for purchasers;

 

Ark. Code Ann. § 23-64-502(13) "Sell" means to exchange a contract of insurance by any means, for money or its equivalent, on behalf of an insurance company;

 

Ark. Code Ann. § 23-64-502(14) "Solicit" means attempting to sell insurance or asking or urging a person to apply for a particular kind of insurance from a particular company;


 

Q.  Where and how do I apply for licensing?

After January 1, 2008, if you desire a title agent or agency license, you may apply to the License Division of the Arkansas Insurance Department (“Department”).  Information can be found online at http://www.insurance.arkansas.gov/License/forms.htm.  Scroll down to Title, then follow instructions on the page.

Q.  What are the basic steps in the licensing process?

First, always check the instructions provided by the Department, as information will be updated from time to time.  That said, here are the basic steps during the licensing process:

  1. All applicants must complete application AID-LI-TA and mail completed application and proper fees to the Department’s exam vendor, Pearson Vue, at 1123 South University, Suite 915, Little Rock, AR 72204.  Applicant must complete the correct application and include the proper fee of $84.00 made payable to “Pearson Vue.”  Payment must be business check, money order or cashier’s check---no personal checks will be accepted.
  2. A completed Affidavit of Prior Title Work Experience AID-LI-TA-Aff must be attached to the application.  This form must be completed by former or current employer who can verify completion of the required experience.  This form must be notarized.
  3. Complete the ASP-122 Criminal Background Report and submit your business check, money order or cashier’s check in the amount of $22.00 made payable to the Arkansas Insurance Department Trust FundNo personal checks will be accepted.   Attach the ASP-122 and ASP fee to the application and mail all the forms and fees to Pearson Vue at 1123 South University, Suite 915, Little Rock, AR 72204.    There are no exemptions to the criminal background report; all applicants must complete and submit this form and fee.
  4. The examination permit is good for only 90 days.  If the applicant has not taken the examination in that period of time, a new application and new fees will be required.
  5. Once the applicant has received an examination permit, the applicant must contact Pearson Vue at 1-888-204-6259 to schedule a test date. The test date cannot be scheduled until the applicant has the permit in hand.

Q.  What experience must I have to become licensed?

To qualify to sit for the exam based on experience, you must have two thousand (2000) hours of prior title work experience.  Prior title work experience includes work such as searching, examination, issuing commitments, preparing a policy for issuance, etc.  This information must be verified by current or former employers through submission of a notarized copy of Form AID-LI-TA-Aff, Affidavit of Prior Title Work Experience along with the license application.  Additionally, the Department may allow other forms of experience, such as closing or escrow work, depending on the evidence submitted.

Q.  Can a nonresident get a License?

A nonresident may be eligible for licensure if he/she is employed by a resident licensee and meets the other eligibility requirements of Rule 87, Section 5.  Rule 87 is available at http://www.insurance.arkansas.gov/Legal%20Dataservices/rnrpage.htm.  Application for licensure must be accompanied by a completed Affidavit of Employment by Resident Licensee.  With respect to the licensed resident employer, an individual resident licensee is one whose residence is in or who may vote in this state.  A resident title agency licensee must show residence by establishing a physical presence in the state, commonly referred to as “bricks and mortar,” accessible to the public wherein the licensee principally conducts transactions, and must be an Arkansas partnership, limited liability partnership, corporation, or limited liability company, filed or registered with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office (or in the case of an Arkansas partnership, if required by Ark. Code Ann. § 4-70-203, filed in the office of the county clerk of the counties in which the partnership conducts or transacts or intends to conduct the business).

Q.  What happens if I fail the exam?

If you fail the exam, you must wait thirty (30) days before you can retake the examination.  Contact Pearson Vue at 1-888-204-6259 for more instructions.  If the 30 day waiting period exceeds the 90 day valid permit period, you must submit new applications and fees.

Q.   I am an attorney.  Am I required to take the licensing examination?

Yes, the current law no longer has exemptions for attorneys; thus, attorneys must meet the examination requirement in order to obtain a title license.  Attorneys currently licensed as title insurance agents need only meet the title agent renewal requirements, including residency requirements, to maintain a title agent’s license.

Q.  I qualify to sit for the state exam based on my experience, but need help in preparing. What study materials are available?

The Pearson Vue website (www.pearsonvue.com/ar/insurance) contains Content Outlines to help you prepare for the exam.

There is no study book for Title Insurance, however, look to the Arkansas Title Insurance Act, codified at Ark. Code Ann. § 23-103-401, et seq., and Rules 87 and 88 for Licensing and Producer Responsibility information.  For the general insurance information contained in the Exam Content Outline, look at the Department website at www.insurance.arkansas.gov.  The Property and Casualty Division page at http://www.insurance.arkansas.gov/PandC/pclaws.htm, provides links to the insurance code.  Specifically, for information on the Insurance Commissioner, look at Title 23, Chapter 61, Subchapter 1, codified as Ark. Code Ann. § 23-61-101, et seq.

Q.  What if my name changes or my address changes?

Arkansas Code Annotated § 23-64-507(f) provides that the failure to inform the Commissioner of a change in legal name or address shall result in a penalty pursuant to § 23-64-216.

If your name changes due to marriage, divorce, or court order, you must notify the Department in writing and attach copies of the legal documents which reflect the name change within 30 days of the change.

If your address or e-mail address changes you must notify the Department within 30 days by using the address change form at http://insurance.arkansas.gov/License/forms.htm.  

Q.  I have not received any Renewal forms, how can I renew?

Title insurance agent and agency renewal forms are available on the Department’s website at:  http://www.insurance.arkansas.gov/License/forms.htm.

Q.  When does my license expire?

Beginning in 2009, the expiration/renewal dates of title insurance agent licenses are the agent’s birth date. You must renew annually to maintain your license.

Q.   I want to license my agency, do I have to keep my individual license?  Why do I need both?

Not necessarily.  You are not required to have a license merely as the owner of the agency unless you remain actively involved or perform the actions of a licensed agent.  However, every title agency must have a qualified or active title insurance agent affiliated with the agency.     

Q.  Can a title insurance agency license remain active if there are no licensed agents affiliated with the agency?

No, the agency license is automatically terminated if there are no licensed title agents affiliated with the agency.  The active designee does not have to be an owner or officer of the agency.

Q.   Can an agent be affiliated with more than one agency or appointed to more than one insurer at a time?

Yes, there is no limit.

Q.  Do I need an appointment by an insurer in order to hold a license?  Do I need an appointment by an insurer in order for the first time license to be issued?

The answer to both questions is no.  You can hold a license without being appointed by an insurer.  As long as you complete your continuing education and renew on time, you can hold an insurance license; however, you must be appointed by an insurer in order to write any business. 

Q.   How can I find out if a company is licensed?

You can view licensing information on the Department’s website.  Simply go to http://www.insurance.arkansas.gov/License/divpage.htm, scroll down to the yellow box in the lower left corner.  Choose the link for the license information you want and enter the required information.  Available license information includes companies, agencies, and agents.

Q.  How do I file a complaint against a licensee?

You may direct your written complaints to Sarah Harper Gray, Title Insurance Coordinator, 1200 West Third Street, Little Rock, AR 72201, or e-mail to sarah.gray@arkansas.govOnce your complaint is received, an investigation file will be opened, and necessary steps will be taken to resolve the matter.  As part of the investigation, a copy of the complaint will be provided to the person being complained about in order to obtain their response.  Upon conclusion of the investigation, both parties will be notified as to the outcome and the complaint will then be subject to Freedom of Information (“FOI”) requests.

Q.  Once licensed, what do I have to do to keep my license?

First, you must be appointed by an insurer as an agent. The Arkansas Code provides that no person acting in the capacity of a title insurance agent shall place business with a title insurer unless a written contract exists between the title insurer and the title insurance agent.  Those who are licensed, but not appointed, are prohibited from transacting title insurance business (e.g., countersigning title commitments, policies, and endorsements).

In addition, you must earn the requisite CE hours every year in order to renew your license. Currently, you must have six CE hours per year, one hour of which must be on the topic of Ethics.


CONTINUING EDUCATION (CE)

Q.  What are my CE requirements?

Every title insurance agent must complete six (6) CE hours per year, including one (1) hour of ethics. 

Q.  Can I get credit for being a member of a title insurance organization?

Yes, you can receive a credit for two (2) annual hours of CE instruction if you hold an active annual membership in a local, state, or national professional insurance organization or association.  The organization or association must file the membership roster with the Department in order for you to receive the credit.

Q.  How many hours can I carry over from one year to the next?

You can carry over the number of hours needed for the next year’s requirement; any hours above the hours needed for the next requirement will be lost; however, the one Ethics hour does not carry over. 

Q.  Can a Licensee become exempt from Continuing Education?  

No.

Q.  What courses can I take to meet my continuing education requirements?  

The licensee must take a title insurance course approved by the Department and offered by an approved continuing education provider.  You cannot use courses approved in other states but not approved in Arkansas.   If the course is not approved or the provider is not approved, the continuing education hours will not count.  Verify that the Provider and the Provider’s courses are approved for Arkansas before you purchase the course.        

Q.  Can I get an extension on my continuing education?

If you have been unable to complete continuing education because of ill health, medical disability or immediate family member illness, you may request an extension for the due date of the continuing education.  You need to document the request with medical statements from the doctor or hospital.  

Q.  I have completed my hours, what do I do now?

Pursuant to Rule 50, the CE provider is required to post the hours earned electronically and file appendix H, the reporting roster of CE completion with the Department.  You may request the appendix E certification of completion for your records.  Title agents pay the $10.00 filing fee with the license renewal fee.  Keep in mind that the CE provider has 10 business days to post the hours earned when you are scheduling your courses. Also remember, as stated in Rule 50, if you don't sign the appendix H, you will not receive credit for that course.

Q.  What are the requirements for ethics education?

You are required to complete one (1) hour of ethics education annually.  The one hour is not in addition to your regular continuing education requirements, but one hour of the six hours must be an approved ethics course.  Ethics hours cannot be carried over from one year to the next.  The year should be considered from one birthday to the next, not a calendar year of Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.

Q.  What are the fines if I fail to complete my CE on time?

Fines begin the first day after the due date (your birthday).   See Chart:

1 to 30 days---license will not renew and will be inactive---$25.00 

31 to 60 days—license inactive and $50.00 fine

61-90 days –license inactive and $100.00 fine

91 days to 365 days—license inactive and $150.00 fine

After 365 days—the license is terminated and you must start over as if you were never licensed, including applications and license exams.  

If the license is inactive due to non-compliance with continuing education, you cannot write business until the requirements are filed and the license is reactivated.

Q.  Can I take the same course over for continuing education credit?

The same course cannot be repeated within a two (2) year period.  A course should not be repeated unless there has been a substantial change in the course.  If the course has been revised and updated, the Department will issue a new course number for the course. The purpose of continuing education is to educate you; repeating a course does not meet this standard. 

Q.  Where can I check to see how many CE hours I have already earned?

Licensee continuing education records will be available on the Department’s website at: http://www.insurance.arkansas.gov/License/CEProducerSearch/ProducerCESearch.asp


MINIMUM SEARCH REQUIREMENTS

Q.  Is there a minimum search requirement?

 Yes.  Every title insurance report or policy must be based upon a search covering of at least 30 years that examine all matters of record affecting title to, and that may impair the marketability to or limit the full enjoyment of, the property. 

Q.  What matters must be disclosed in title commitments and title insurance policies?

The Department views this matter as an underwriting decision and will only provide statutory guidance.  Please be advised that the Department interprets the minimum search requirements of Ark. Code Ann. § 23-103-408, the policyholder rights and disclosures of Ark. Code Ann. § 23-103-413, and Rule 87 to provide disclosure guidelines but not limitations of policy disclosures.  The disclosure of defects in title must be in accordance with the insurance code.  Specifically, in making a determination, agents and insurers must ensure compliance with Ark. Code Ann. § 23-103-413(a)(2) which provides that the title commitment and title policy are meant to be a written representation of all liens, defects, and encumbrances affecting title to the land that are filed of record; and Ark. Code Ann. § 23-103-408(c), which states that “[n]o title insurance policy shall be issued until the title insurer or title insurance agent has caused to be made a determination of insurability of title in accordance with the title insurer's underwriting practices.”

Q.  Do I have to conduct a search from a licensed abstract or title plant?

No.  Section 15 of Rule 87 provides that the source of title evidence may include a prior title insurance policy, abstracts of title, title plant records, county records of the ex-officio recorder, or any combination thereof, provided that any title insurance report derived from the search discloses “all liens, defects, and encumbrances affecting title to the land that are filed of record.”  Only a search of the immediately preceding thirty years is required by the Arkansas Title Insurance Act and Section 15 of Rule 87.  The required disclosure of matters affecting title to the land in a title insurance report or policy is limited to those which are filed of record within the thirty year period.

Q.  What happens if I don’t conduct the minimum 30-year search?

Failure to conduct the minimum search, as required by Ark. Code Ann. § 23-103-408, is a violation of insurance law.  Under Ark. Code Ann. § 23-64-216, the Commissioner may suspend or revoke your license, place you on probation, or impose an administrative penalty on your license for the violation of any insurance law, rule, or order of the Commissioner.

Q.   How will anyone know if I do not conduct the minimum 30-year search?

Complaints may be filed against title agents or agencies suspected of not conducting the minimum searches.  All complaints received by the Department will be thoroughly investigated for violations.  It is a licensee’s duty to report any known violation of the insurance code.  The minimum search requirement will not only be enforced through individual title agent and agency licenses, but also through title insurers.  In accordance with Ark. Code Ann. § 23-103-411 and Rule 87, the title insurer is required to conduct a yearly on-site audit of appointed title insurance agencies.  The obligation is for the title insurer to either obtain or cause its agent to obtain the minimum search in order to prepare a title policy.  Since the title insurer has this obligation, proof of meeting the minimum search requirements will be required during the audit.    Upon learning of the violation, the Department can take action against the licensee.  The Commissioner may also conduct an audit of books, records, files, and escrow and operating accounts related to title insurance reports and policies maintained by a title insurance agent.

Q.   Does the new 30-year search requirement apply only to transactions where a title insurance report or policy is being written?

Yes, the relevant language of Ark. Code Ann. § 23-103-408 and Rule 87 states that “[n]o title insurance report or policy shall be issued unless” the insurer or agent has made a search of all matters affecting the title to the property for a continuous period of not less than the immediately preceding thirty years.  Thus, the minimum search requirement only applies to transactions where a title insurance report or policy is being issued.

Q.  Can a prior owner’s title insurance policy be used as a starting point for the search?

Yes, as long as the underlying search for the insurance report or policy covers at least the preceding thirty years.  Section 15(C) of Rule 87 provides various evidence the search may be based upon.  Any policy upon which the title insurance agent is willing to rely, subject to a determination of insurability of title in accordance with the title insurer’s underwriting practices may be used as a starting point.  However, agents should be aware that it is not the prior POLICY that provides compliance with the regulation; it is the underlying EVIDENCE of a thirty year search. A policy issued prior to the subject Act and Rule might not have been written from a thirty year chain and may not report all matters of record within the thirty year search period as required. Using such a policy as a starter policy would be in violation of the regulation. Agents should always be able to produce the thirty year search EVIDENCE, not just a prior policy.  Regardless of whether a prior policy is used as a starting point, any combination of evidence upon which the search is based, must cover a continuous period of no less than the immediately preceding thirty years.


CLOSING PROTECTION LETTERS (CPLs)

Q.  Is there a mandatory fee associated with CPLs?

No, we do not set rates.  The form and amount charged by a title insurer for settlement or closing protection coverage must be filed with the Commissioner at least twenty (20) days before its first use in the market in accordance with Ark. Code Ann. § 23-103-405(c)(4). 

Q.  Who is responsible for filing CPLs with the Department?

These forms are filed only by the title insurer.  Title agents and agencies must use the approved forms provided by the title insurer with whom they hold an appointment.

Q.   In a split closing, am I required to offer a CPL to all parties?

No, Section 14(B) of Rules 87 states that “Settlement or Closing Protection Letters shall, if requested by a party to a closing (buyer, seller, or lender) handled by the title insurance agent, be issued to the requesting party…”.  If the closing is not handled by the title insurance agent, there is no requirement to issue a CPL.

Q.  When do you have to offer a CPL in a refinance transaction?

If you are conducting the closing for the refinance and any part of that closing requires a title insurance product, the CPL requirement is triggered.

Q.  Are CPL fees that have been filed by the title insurer required to be disclosed on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement?

In certain transactions, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), specifically, Section 3500.8, requires that the HUD-1 and HUD-1A settlement statements must be completed by the person conducting the closing and must conspicuously and clearly itemize all charges related to the transaction.  If a charge is made for a CPL, it should be disclosed on the relevant settlement statement.  If no charge is made, the settlement statement should reflect that a CPL was provided at no charge.

Q.  Can a title agent pay the CPL fees on behalf of the buyer or seller?

Nothing in the Act or Rule 87 requires a CPL fee to the buyer or seller.  The CPL charge is a fee payable to the title insurer by the title agent for the issuance of a CPL.  It is permissible to charge the CPL fee to the buyer or seller, but if a title agent chooses to not charge the buyer or seller the CPL fee, the agent will still be responsible for remitting the full amount of the CPL fee to the title insurer.  Additionally, title agents who choose to not charge the buyer or seller should be aware of, and comply with, the RESPA rules on illegal kickbacks and inducements.