Before and After: Legal Trends for Remote Online Notarization During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jim Franks

January 24, 2021

Improvements in technology have begun a gradual shift toward telecommuting, work at home, and other remote options for individuals. This change was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting social distancing guidelines, and quarantines. As of June 2020, it was estimated that nearly 42 percent of the United States workforce was working remotely full-time.  

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, state legislatures were beginning to recognize the need for remote notarization options. Remote notarizations allow businesses and individuals to have their legal and business needs met without requiring in-person interactions with a notary public. The health and safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the need for improved legislation to support the use of remote online notarizations (RON).

Legislation Before COVID-19

The shift towards remote work environments has been occurring for some time. In 2011, the state of Virginia was the first state to pass legislation allowing RON’s. , which took effect in 2013. By 2020, twenty-three states had enacted or approved legislation to allow the use of RON’s.

COVID-19 and the Need for Legislation

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in the United States. The resultant social distancing and quarantine guidelines made it increasingly unsafe and inconvenient to seek an in-person notarization. As COVID-19 became more widespread, many states prioritized the adoption of remote notarization. In order to respond to the needs of their constituents, state lawmakers introduced new legislation, made necessary changes to existing legislation, or issued emergency executive orders. As of October 2020, Pennsylvania was the twenty-ninth state to make the use of RON’s legal through new state laws. 

Professional organizations, including the Mortgage Bankers Associations and the American Land Title Association, are lobbying state legislatures. As part of these lobbying efforts, these professional organizations are advising new laws address three specific aspects:

  1. Allow notarizations to be completed via audio-video communication and allow notarizations to be completed for individuals outside the state where the notary is practicing.
  2. Require the notary authenticate the identity of the signer
  3. Require electronic record keeping, including recordings of the audio-visual component of the notarization.

Federal Response: The Secure Act

On March 18, 2020 Senate Bill 3353 was introduced in the United States House and Senate. The Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (the “SECURE Act”) has bipartisan support and, if passed, will make it easier for notaries to use remote options to complete interstate notarizations. Although the SECURE Act has yet to be signed into law, many Federal agencies (including the IRS) are already making allowances for people to use remote technology to avoid the need for in-person notarizations. In many states it is already legal for a notary to complete notarizations with parties out of state, as long as that notary is located in the state where they are certified to practice. The passage of the SECURE Act would make seeking notary services easier and more convenient throughout the United States.

The COVID- pandemic has emphasized this need and encouraged lawmakers in all fifty states to pursue legislation to allow for the use of remote online notarization. Check with your lender, consult our knowledgeable staff at LiveNotary, or reference the list below if you have questions about remote online notarizations in your state.  

States with Approved RON Legislation*

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

States with Executive or Emergency Orders Allowing RON*

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

*this information is subject to change with new legislation or expiration of executive/emergency orders

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