COVID-19 has moved the world squarely into a virtual existence. Company board rooms have been abandoned for Zoom and similar group meeting platforms. Television studios have been replaced with Skype cameras in living rooms. Families celebrate life events over video chat. Consumers can have anything from groceries to new and used vehicles delivered to their front door. One can even buy a home online from a company like REX.
Yet, many states still require in-person notarization before a straightforward agreement or transaction can be completed. As a United States Senator and President and Chief Operating Officer of REX, we are among the many lawmakers and business executives who support changes to the notarization process.
Requiring in-person notarization may have made sense before video-conferencing and multifactor authentication existed. But safe and available technology has made this practice outdated and unnecessary. And, as COVID-19 has taught us, business and government should have straightforward and easily accessible virtual processes in place so the economy can continue even in times of crisis.
Fortunately, a bipartisan effort is underway in Congress to bring this aspect of real estate sales into the digital age. The bill is called the “Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic (SECURE) Notarization Act.” Backed by Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, this legislation authorizes the immediate nationwide use of Remote Online Notarizations, also called RONs.
The past several months can be called a Black Swan Event, something unpredictable that results in great change and innovation. Implementing RONs across the United States should be one of this year’s innovations. Many states already had them in place before the nation moved into the COVID era. Since then, that number has continued to skyrocket.
Like so many of our country’s game-changing tech platforms, REX was founded in California, a state which has not authorized online notarization. Company executives have sheltered at home with family while running a nationwide company from their kitchen tables. Sales and escrows from all over the country land in our inboxes every day. Yet official notarization is the one aspect of the deal still requiring in-person interaction, all the while increasing the risk of spreading the virus.
At several points in the sale of the home, digital signatures are used, all of which involve highly sensitive personal and financial information. However, this single in-person act places the notary, REX employees, their families and anyone with whom they came into contact at serious risk of infection. This is an unnecessary risk for businesses, consumers and notaries nationwide.
Technology and the ability to virtually witness the official intent of a signatory through online notarization already exist. In recent years, some states have successfully tested and authorized this practice. Databases, professional protocols, and accountability can easily be designed and implemented to ensure proper oversight of virtual notaries and the handling of sensitive information. Companies, which like REX do business across state lines, need Congress to act now so customers can expect the same service, convenience, and safety no matter where they live.
With proper oversight, consumers in all states can be adequately protected from wire fraud and scams. This is the same conclusion reached when the SECURE Notarization Act was introduced. Americans should not have to risk their health or safety to execute important financial or legal documents, especially when they could do so from the safety of their own home. This bill brings the notary process into the 21st century.
Companies like REX are hard at work revolutionizing the digital and virtual experience in their respective fields. It is time for Congress to help make this revolution a nationwide practice and pass the SECURE Notarization Act.