Town n’ Country Title prides itself on providing quality products and service to its many customers. The American Land Title Association’s (ALTA’s) Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices are a way for our team to demonstrate its commitment to our goal of striving to always improve upon what we do, and to earn the trust of those with whom we do business. We look forward to a continued working relationship and want to thank you for your business.
ALTA ID: 1065381
BEST PRACTICE NO. 1 – LICENSING
Establish and maintain current license(s) as required to conduct the business of title insurance and settlement services.
Town n’ Country Title, LLC – POLICY No. 1
Town n’ Country Title, LLC (TNCT) has established and will maintain the following procedures and controls related to maintaining current licenses as required to conduct the business of title insurance and settlement services in the State of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
1.01 REQUIRED LICENSES AND REGISTRATIONS
As a current and active member of the American Land Title Association (ATLA),Town n’ Country Title, LLC also maintains those licenses as required by ALTA’s Policy Forms Licensing requirements. A copy of the current TNCT membership certificate for ALTA is available upon request.
All annual reports and fees, as required by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions & the Minnesota Department of Financial Institutions, are also tracked for compliance to ensure they are submitted on an annual basis.
REVIEW OF LICENSING REQUIREMENTS
Town n’ Country Title, LLC obtains materials regarding licensing requirements from a variety of sources.
Information on the status of the LLC, as a business entity, is retrieved from the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ website.
Also, the Wisconsin Land Title Association (WLTA) & Minnesota Land Title Association (MLTA) disseminates information on licensing to its members.
Lastly, Town n’ Country Title, LLC receives information on licensing requirements from its underwriters, First American Title Insurance Company, Old Republic National Title Insurance Company, and Alliant National Title Insurance Company. TNCT is in good standing with each of its underwriters. A letter of good standing can be furnished upon request.
No continuing education is required to maintain a Wisconsin or Minnesota Intermediary License.
All TNCT employees who are performing the functions of an intermediary in Wisconsin and/or Minnesota are required by the company to be licensed. These employees shall hold the respective states Intermediary’s License as issued by the Wisconsin Department of Insurance or Minnesota Department of Commerce.
If a person is hired by TNCT who should be but does not currently hold the appropriate Intermediary’s license, that person shall be required to become licensed within a reasonable time after their initial date of employment.
A listing of all TNCT’s currently licensed employees is included with the supporting documentation for Pillar #1.
A list of individuals holding a Wisconsin or Minnesota Intermediary License is submitted to TNCT’s underwriters. When a license become inactive or a person no longer is employed by TNCT, the HR Manager of TNCT notifies the applicable underwriters.
Town n’ Country Title, LLC maintains both an electronic and hard copy of current licensing information. The hard copy is kept in the appropriate employee file. The electronic copy of this licensing log is kept on the TNCT network in a folder.
Each month the HR Manager reviews the electronic and hard copies of the current licensing information to determine which licenses are expiring in the subsequent month.
One month prior to the expiration of the license, the HR Manager notifies the employee as a reminder for them to renew their license.
ACCESS TO LICENSE INFORMATION
For security purposes the hard copy of licensing information is kept in the office of the HR Manager. Only the President and HR Manager shall have access to this information.
The electronic spreadsheet tracking license information shall be kept by the HR Manager.
BEST PRACTICE NO. 2 - ESCROW TRUST ACCOUNTING
Adopt and maintain appropriate written procedures and controls for Escrow Trust Accounts allowing for electronic verification of reconciliation.
NOTE: These procedures apply to all custodial or fiduciary accounts including closing and disbursement accounts, recording accounts, construction disbursing accounts, underwriter remittance/premium accounts, and other similar accounts.
TOWN n’ COUNTRY TITLE, LLC Policy – NO. 2
Town n’ Country Title, LLC (TNCT) has established and will maintain the following procedures and controls relating to the safeguarding of client funds and to minimize the exposure to loss of client funds.
2.01 Escrow Trust Account Controls
Complete background checks performed as part of the hiring process going back five years and repeated every three years thereafter for all employees, unless otherwise noted in exceptions.
ESCROW FUNDS AND OPERATING ACCOUNTS ARE SEPARATELY MAINTAINED
Town n’ Country Title, LLC maintains one Escrow Account for real estate and mortgage loan transactions. These funds are held under a fiduciary capacity and are not commingled with TNCT’s operating funds or an employee or manager’s personal account. Funds are to be deposited the date received and posted in Softpro Select.
ESCROW ACCOUNTS TRIAL BALANCE REPORTS
A trial balance report depicting the balance of a particular customer’s funds can be produced for each escrow account at any time. This report depicts all individual customer file balances that do not have a zero balance. On a monthly basis, the President reconciles the trial balance report to the bank balance and reconciled book balance, creating a “three way” reconciliation. Trial balance reports are produced for each escrow account maintained by TNCT, including recording accounts and underwriter premium accounts.
ESCROW ACCOUNTS ARE PROPERLY LABELED AND MAINTAINED IN INSURED INSTITUTIONS
Escrow bank accounts are appropriately designated as “escrow” accounts. This designation is noted in the original banking agreements as well as on our check stock, deposit slips, and bank statements. Escrow accounts are maintained with insured financial institutions.
DORMANT FILE BALANCES
Customer files that continue to hold funds after the settlement date are reviewed periodically to determine if any disbursements have been made. The President or Operations Manager approval is required for any disbursement from an inactive escrow. An inactive escrow is defined as any escrow which has had no activity for the past six months. This approval is documented and maintained.
BANKING TRANSACTIONS CONDUCTED BY AUTHORIZED EMPLOYEES
Per agreements with financial institutions, The Company management authorizes employees for escrow bank account transactions. Wire transfer initiation and approval levels are set by TNCT and reviewed for changes in staff routinely. Former employees are immediately deleted as signatories and authorized wire transfer individuals. A list of authorized individuals is maintained in Town n’ Country Title’s Escrow Account Information Report. The individual(s) designated as the ‘wire transfer administrator’ to set-up and change online banking permissions has been authorized by Corporate Management.
Authorized check signers and wire individuals do not maintain the escrow accounting records or perform the escrow account reconciliations.
ACH blocks are used on all custodial or fiduciary accounts including closing and disbursement accounts, underwriter remittance/premium accounts, and other similar accounts, unless otherwise noted in exceptions.
International wire blocks are placed on our Escrow Trust Account to prevent unauthorized users from withdrawing funds from the escrow account.
Town n’ Country Title maintains a cyber-insurance policy against the acts of those trying to unlawfully transfer funds via electronic methods. This policy is to further protect funds and to minimize the exposure to a loss of client funds. A copy of TNCT’s summary of insurance is available upon request.
2.02 Escrow Account Authorizations
Require that while one person may initiate a wire transfer, a second person must approve the wire. The funds are not debited from the agent escrow account until the wire is approved by the second person. A written policy is in place.
2.03 Account Reconciliations
Reconciliations are in an electronic format and saved electronically so we can access them in the future.
The “Positive Pay” feature is utilized by TNCT’s financial institution. The President reviews the positive pay exception report daily. All positive pay reports are accessible through financial portal and any exceptions are reviewed prior to approval.
It is the responsibility of the President to reconcile the escrow accounts. Account receipts and disbursements activity are reconciled daily (two-way). Monthly, a three-way reconciliation between the bank records, book records, and trial balance is performed. This reconciliation is completed within four business days of receipt of bank statement.
A listing is kept of all escrow accounts. This listing includes underwriter premiums accounts, recording accounts and dormant accounts.
The escrow account reconciliations are reviewed under dual control by management and available to the title insurance underwriter at any time requested.
2.04 Good Funds
Town n’ Country Title ensures when making disbursements from Escrow Accounts, and subject to state law requirements, the Company ensures that undue risk is not being undertaken for escrow deposits that are not fully settled or that could be reversible.
2.05 Wire Transfer
Town n’ Country Title utilizes the use of wire transfer verification services through a vetted industry partner, CertifID. A written policy and procedure is in place for all outgoing wires, which includes multi-factor authentication and dual control review and release process.
Wire transfer security includes a documented procedure to alert consumers about potential wire fraud and how to mitigate risk.
We have a written wire fraud response procedure which includes the recommendations of ALTA Rapid Response Plan for wire fraud incidences in place and is reviewed annually.
Ongoing training is conducted for employees on the safe and secure management of Escrow funds and proper Escrow accounting by management. Training includes, but not limited to, risk of digital funds transfer using FinTech applications, good funds requirements, and wire transfer fraud prevention best practices. All training and continuing education is tracked and maintained by the HR Manager.
EXCEPTIONS TO BEST PRACTICES PILLAR #2
- ACH block is not used on e-Pay account allowing for electronic deposit of earnest money and fees from customers/clients
- ACH block is not used on recording escrow account to allow for ACH transfer of daily recording fees and taxes.
BEST PRACTICE NO. 3 - PRIVACY AND INFORMATION SECURITY
Adopt and maintain a written information security plan (WISP) and written privacy plan to protect Non-public Personal Information (NPI) as required by local, state, and federal law.
TOWN n’ COUNTRY TITLE, LLC Policy – NO. 3
Town n’ Country Title, LLC (TNCT) has established and will maintain the following procedures and controls relating to the safeguarding of document privacy and information for the protection of data and Non-public Public Information (NPI).
Non-public Personal Information is described as personally identifiable data, such as information provided by a customer on a form or application, information about a customer’s transactions, or any other information about a customer that is otherwise unavailable to
the general public. NPI includes first name or first initial and last name coupled with any of the following: Social Security Number, driver’s license number, state-issued ID number, credit card number, debit card number, or other financial account numbers.
3.01 Written Information Security Plan (WISP)
3.02 Risk Identification and Assessment
Town n’ Country Title makes an annual assessment of the standards and requirements affiliated with its WISP, including those set out in this policy and procedure document.
3.03 Employee Training, Management, and Responsibilities
Town n’ Country Title policies associated with the WISP are given to all employees and the employees must acknowledge in writing that they have read and understand such policies. There is required ongoing/continuous training on a quarterly basis for all employees.
3.04 Information Security
Individuals who have access to NPI is restricted to authorized principals and employees who have undergone a formal background check in accordance with company policy and its underwriters’ requirements.
The use of removable media devices is prohibited unless the President, and/or HR Manager has authorized such use.
Other standard procedures for security of NPI include closing paper files other than the one currently being worked on, stow files away when away from workspace and lock desks and file cabinets at the end of the day. All computer/electronics are password protected and locked when away from desk.
Hardcopy NPI that is transmitted outside the office is done so using only by secured envelopes.
NETWORK SECURITY OF NPI
At the direction of the President, TNCT’s designated Network Administrator grants appropriate access to the various computer technology applications. Town n’ Country Title, LLC’s file server(s) is housed in a room with a secure door. TNCT’s computer network utilizes up-to-date anti-virus, anti-spyware and data encryption software applications. The Network Administrator is responsible for such software and hardware maintenance.
Access to computers and TNCT’s network is secured by individual and unique passwords. No persons other than authorized TNCT employees, the Network Administrator, and/or authorized service persons shall have access to any TNCT computer or server.
3.05 Retention and Destruction of Personal Information
Town n’ Country Title, LLC has defined and communicated to employees the types of data/information that falls into the NPI category. Any NPI data is disposed of properly depending on media type. Shredding bins are located in each office. When disposing of computers and portable storage devices, TNCT uses a trusted third-party company that is nationally certified in IT disposal.
Digital retention of all NPI is maintained through cloud-based systems and on-site servers which utilize both on-site and off-site backup procedures.
3.06 Overseeing Service Providers
If independent service providers for TNCT receive NPI, TNCT shares this policy document with the service provider and/or conducts appropriate due diligence of the NPI security measures of the service provider before transmitting any NPI data. Service providers are aware they must notify TNCT regarding NPI security breaches of NPI data that has been transmitted.
3.07 Data Breach Incident Reporting
If security breaches occur, proper notification is provided to consumers and law enforcement in accordance with Town n’ Country Title’s WISP and disaster management plan.
3.08 Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
Town n’ Country Title has a documented disaster management plan to ensure adequate back-up, recovery, and business continuation procedures. The plan also includes required procedures for notification and response to security incidents and breaches. The plan is called the Town n’ Country Title Disaster-Recovery-Plan. The disaster management plan is reviewed on a 3-year basis by the President, HR Manager, and each Branch Manager; it is updated as appropriate.
Town n’ Country Title also maintains insurance coverage for such circumstances.
Town n’ Country Title utilizes encryption of all sensitive information, including but not limited to NPI that is delivered using Zix, a secure email encryption service.
3.10 Monitoring of External Threats
Town n’ Country Title’s systems and software programs are monitored by a Remote Monitoring Management (RMM) system provided through TNCT’s vetted third-party I.T. Provider. A monthly report is provided to TNCT’s by the provider and is reviewed and maintained in our internal business records. An annual review is done with TNCT Management and third-party provider.
BEST PRACTICE NO. 4 - SETTLEMENT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
Adopt standard real estate Settlement policies and procedures that help ensure compliance with: (i) federal and state consumer financial protection laws and regulations, and (ii) contractual obligations as applicable to the Settlement process.
TOWN n’ COUNTRY TITLE, LLC Policy – NO. 4
Town n’ Country Title, LLC (TNCT) has established and will maintain the following procedures and controls relating to document recordation and rate/pricing procedures to put TNCT in compliance with applicable contractual obligations and Federal and State Laws.
4.01 Recording Procedures
HOW RECORDINGS ARE PROCESSED
The assigned staff are responsible for electronically submitting the documents for recording to the appropriate Register of Deeds office within two (2) business days of settlement. The staff is required to know the requirements for recording documents and is trained on the appropriate e-recording platform.
When e-recordings cannot be utilized or are not available, the assigned staff will send the documents for recording to the appropriate Register of Deeds office using a national overnight carrier. Tracking information is maintained in title production/retention software.
After the documents have been recorded, detailed information such as the document number and date of recording are retained in title production/retention software as well as on e-recording platforms.
Rejected documents are identified promptly through e-recording platform or notification from Register of Deeds office and appropriately addressed in a timely manner.
4.02 Pricing Procedures
RATE MANUALS & PRICING
Town n’ Country Title is utilizing rate manuals and/or online calculators, as appropriate, to ensure correct amounts are being charged for title insurance policy premiums, state or Company-specific fees, and endorsements.
All applicable rate discounts, such as Simultaneous Issue, Reissue, and Refinance are calculated in accordance with the requirements in the rate manual.
Rate change bulletins are issued by underwriters and distributed to appropriate staff for implementation in accordance with effective date.
Each file is subject to a post-closing review by the Finals Specialist to conclude if fees were correctly charged. Refunds and other fees are timely issued to Consumers when an overpayment is detected.
4.03 Oversight of Signing Professionals
Town n’ Country Title has established and implemented written procedures to monitor and verify that all signing professionals possess the appropriate insurance to notarize documents, conduct the Settlement, and safeguard NPI. These requirements are determined by a mix of legal and contractual obligations, including state regulations and Title Insurer requirements and restrictions.
For signing professionals who are third parties, TNCT requires demonstrable evidence of their current state licensure, where required, or a recognized and verifiable industry designation; and E&O insurance and Notary surety bond.
4.04 Remote Online Notarization (RON)
Town n’ Country Title notarizes Settlement documents via remote notarization, using remote notarization platforms authorized by the state in which the notary public is located and that is approved by the underwriter. All software platforms are capable of meeting the minimum requirements of the state, including retention of the video and safeguarding of NPI.
All fees charged are in accordance with state regulations.
When engaging in a third-party to notarize documents via remote notarization, Town n’ Country Title will oversee the selection of the platform in compliance with ALTA Best Practices and capable of meeting the minimum requirements of the state.
Staff is trained to minimize errors in completing the Settlement procedures. This is done to enable a timely response to concerns raised by any of the parties following the Settlement process, including addressing Consumer complaints in compliance with the requirements of ALTA Best Practices.
Staff who are responsible for quoting title insurance rates, pricing determinations, and invoicing are trained in company policy and procedures and licensed within accordance with Best Practices Pillar #1 – Licensing.
BEST PRACTICE NO. 5 - POLICY PRODUCTION, DELIVERY, REPORTING AND PREMIUM REMITTANCE
Adopt and maintain written procedures related to title policy production, delivery, reporting and premium remittance.
TOWN n’ COUNTRY TITLE, LLC Policy – NO. 5
Town n’ Country Title, LLC (TNCT) has established and will maintain the following procedures and controls relating to title policy production, delivery, reporting and premium remittance as necessary to meet its legal and contractual obligations.
5.01 Title Policy Production and Delivery
Title insurance policies are issued and delivered in a timely manner to meet statutory, regulatory, and contractual obligations typically within thirty days (30) of the later of:
(i) the date of Settlement, or (ii) the date that the terms and conditions of the title insurance commitment are satisfied, unless statutory or regulatory requirements deem that an earlier delivery is necessary.
The Company receives its policy inventory directly from the insurer via the electronic policy application. A Policy Inventory Report is available through title production/retention software.
In addition to the Policy Inventory report, TNCT has a tracking system that identifies files that have closed for which policies have not been issued. Electronic policy stock is limited to authorized users with login and passwords. Authorized users are determined by the underwriters.
5.02 Policy Reporting
In accordance with contractual obligations on a monthly basis, TNCT reports to the insurer all title insurance policies (including endorsements), premiums and other fees. Reporting is performed via an electronic upload through the insurer’s electronic reporting web-based system.
5.03 Premium Remittance
Title insurance policies should be reported to the Title Insurer (including a copy of the policy, if required by the Title Insurer) to meet applicable statutory, regulatory, and contractual obligations, but not to exceed forty-five (45) days following:
(i) the date of Settlement, or (ii) the date the terms and conditions of the title insurance commitment is satisfied.
Title insurance premiums are maintained in a separate escrow account in accordance with ALTA Best Practices Pillar #2 and remitted to the Title Insurer to meet applicable statutory, regulatory, and monthly contractual obligations.
BEST PRACTICE NO. 6 - INSURANCE AND FIDELITY COVERAGE
Maintain appropriate insurance and fidelity coverage.
TOWN n’ COUNTRY TITLE, LLC Policy – NO. 6
Town n’ Country Title, LLC (TNCT) has established and will maintain the following procedures and controls relating professional liability coverage (errors and omissions insurance, fidelity and surety bond) and so that TNCT has the financial capacity to cover its professional services obligations.
6.01 Professional Liability Insurance and Fidelity Coverage
Town n’ Country Title maintains and complies with requirements for professional liability insurance/E&O insurance, cyber liability insurance, crime/fidelity/surety bond coverage, as required by state law or Title Insurer contractual obligations.
Insurance coverage limits and exceptions, particularly E&O insurance, cyber liability insurance, and crime coverage are reviewed with the Company’s insurance broker/agent at least on an annual basis.
BEST PRACTICE NO. 7 – CONSUMER COMPLAINTS
Adopt and maintain written procedures for resolving Consumer complaints.
TOWN n’ cOUNTRY TITLE, LLC Policy – NO. 7
Town n’ Country Title, LLC (TNCT) has established and will maintain the following procedures and controls relating to tracking and resolving consumer complaints.
7.01 Recordation and Response
DEFINITION OF A COMPLAINT
Any matter brought to the attention of TNCT which is the result of the insured consumer’s dissatisfaction with the services, charges, or commitments/policies of Town n’ Country Title, LLC.
INTAKE OF A COMPLAINT
All phone calls and emails that refer to a substantial consumer complaint that could result in a loss or claim shall be referred to management.
A Complaint Intake Form (CIF) shall be used to obtain information necessary to investigate and resolve the matter. This form also connects a consumer complaint to a specific transaction.
An initial response to substantial consumer complaints shall be made within a timely manner that is practical for the particular issue with final resolution being approved by Operations Manager.
If management cannot resolve complaint to satisfaction of the customer, the issue shall be referred to the applicable underwriter.
The HR Manager shall retain the CIF and log all customer complain incidents and resolution of said complaints.
Notice of complaint will be kept for three (3) years following the resolution of the issue after which it will be purged in a secure manner, such as shredding.