On March 31, Governor Kemp issued an executive order allowing remote notarization of certain real estate documents in order to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the order, any requirements that notarization under Code Sections 44-2-1 et seq. and 45-17-1 et seq. must be in-person can now be satisfied by communication through video conferencing. Additionally, witnesses are no longer required to acknowledge real estate documents in person and can instead meet these requirements through video conferencing.
This change reflects a trend towards remote notarization that began before the pandemic and has become especially popular since. Almost half the states already allow some form of remote notarization. Georgia came close to joining these states, as a House bill filed in January would have provided for remote online notarizations. However, there was disagreement concerning the language of the bill and it did not get out of committee. Recently, states like Georgia that do not yet allow remote notarization have been issuing orders similar to Georgia’s that allow it, at least temporarily.
A move toward remote notarization is also occurring at the national level. On March 18, the SECURE Notarization Act was introduced into the Senate. This Act would immediately permit remote online notarization nationwide and set minimum regulations to protect consumers. The American Land Title Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the National Association of Realtors all support the Act.
A shift to remote notarization has clearly been in the cards for a while, but the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have made it a reality for many sooner than expected. Recent challenges in home sale closings demonstrate the serious need for the ability to close deals remotely. Realtor associations are recommending addenda to contracts extending closing dates if closings must be delayed. Additionally, some home deals that have actually closed occurred in parking lots with attorneys passing documents to each other through car windows.
While the difficulties arising from social distancing will not last forever, changes allowing for remote notarizations and deal closings will likely become permanent. Legislation is already in the works, and, with the convenience of remote deals, many people will not want to go back.
About the author
Melanie Tate is a J.D. candidate at Emory University School of Law. Melanie earned her B.A. in literature from Louisiana State University. She is a 2019 – 2020 legal intern at Caiaccio Law Firm.