Davis Brown is now offering remote online notarization (RON) in accordance with Governor Reynolds’ March 22 emergency proclamation. Davis Brown can assist with the execution of all documents that require or utilize notarization, including mortgages, deeds, affidavits, wills, and powers of attorney.
The proclamation suspends the “personal appearance” requirement of Iowa’s notary statute, so long as the notarial act complies with certain requirements. RON can be used to notarize documents for the duration of the Governor’s disaster proclamation and any further extensions. RON was approved by the Iowa Legislature in 2019 and a statute was slated to come into effect on July 1, 2020. The Governor’s emergency proclamation is not changing the effective date of that statute - there are additional requirements in the statute that will not be in effect during the period of this emergency.
A substitute for in-person notarization, RON does not require the signer to be physically present with the notary at the time of signing. The notarization is completed via one of the online software platforms the Iowa Secretary of State has approved. Although some RON software utilizes popular third-party video conferencing services such as GoToMeeting or Zoom, it is important to understand that utilization of those third-party video conferencing services, without more, cannot be used by themselves to complete the online notarization.
As noted above, real time interaction between the notary and the signer is not the only requirement. RON also requires, among other things, that both the signer and notary have internet access, email, web camera, and microphone. Documents utilizing RON are uploaded to the software and set up by the notarial officer for signatures prior to execution. The signer’s identity is confirmed via the personal knowledge of the notarial officer or through “knowledge-based authentication,” which requires the signer to answer a series of questions to confirm their identity. The RON process is recorded, with the video recording saved by the notarial officer. A notation must be made on the document stating that it was executed and notarized using remote software. It is important to understand that each of the above safeguards must be met to have a valid and binding use of RON.
RON in Real Estate
There has been some concern expressed in the real estate industry as to whether RON is enforceable, including whether instruments utilizing RON are recordable. While the Governor’s proclamation did not direct county recorders to accept remotely notarized documents, the Iowa Secretary of State’s office has issued guidance to all county recorders to accept these documents. Further, Iowa Title Guaranty and the Iowa Finance Authority do not have plans at this time to include any additional requirements or exceptions on lender policies for transactions that utilize RON. As such, we at Davis Brown are confident and comfortable utilizing RON as necessary in real estate transactions.
If you have questions about RON or whether it is suitable for your transaction, you are encouraged to reach out to an attorney.
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