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Tracking RON: From RULONA to Corona

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By Amy Tankersley

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Use of remote online notarization (RON), one of the key elements of a digital closing, to carry out real estate closings during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a lifeline for our industry, but nationwide RON adoption has been a slow achievement that has taken  10 years.

As seen in this graphic, RON was initially authorized in 2010, when the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) promulgated the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) to authorize electronic notarization – but the act did not address remote online transactions. Virginia was the first state to embrace this change, enacting a RON law in 2011, but it was a lone champion until a few more states followed its lead in the final years of the decade.

In 2018, the ULC amended RULONA to incorporate a framework for how RON transactions may be conducted, finally spurring states into action. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 23 states – still less than half the country – had enacted RON laws. More optimistically, nearly half the country was on the cusp of adoption despite 10 years of state and national legislative and regulatory challenges.

Either way, in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, most states moved to ensure closings could continue and enacted temporary orders to enable the use of RON or remote ink-signed notarization (RIN), a less secure but easily accessible method of notarizing closing documents via webcam-based technology.

As states begin to move away from shelter-in-place orders and “reopen,” some of these orders are expiring, and some are being extended.

Where does this leave RON?

Only time will tell. Absent federal authorization of RON, the battle will continue to be fought on the state level. Whatever the changes, States Title will remain on the frontline of pushing for greater efficiencies and the use of technologies such as RON to make the homebuying and refinancing experience better for everyone, wherever they are located, and whatever medical, physical, or geographical restrictions they may need accommodated. For more on the evolution of RON, RIN, and eClosings in general, check out our white paper, Digital Closings Clear Final Hurdles.

Major milestones in RON adoption:

  • 2010: Uniform Law Commission (ULC) promulgates the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) to authorize electronic notarization (without considering remote online transactions), greenlighting state legislative actions
  • 2011: Virginia becomes first state to enact a RON law
  • 2017: Nevada and Texas enact RON laws
  • 2018: ULC revises RULONA to authorize RON and establish minimum standards; Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee, and Vermont enact RON laws
  • 2019: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington enact RON laws
  • March 2020: Wisconsin enacts a RON law
  • March 11, 2020: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic
  • Week of March 20, 2020: New York issues a temporary order authorizing use of remote ink-signed notarization (RIN)
  • Week of March 27, 2020: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Wyoming issue temporary RIN orders; Iowa and Vermont, which have RON laws, also issue temporary RIN orders
  • Week of April 3, 2020: Arkansas, Hawaii, Missouri, New Mexico, and Rhode Island issue temporary RIN orders; Kentucky and Maryland, which have RON laws, also issue temporary RIN orders
  • Week of April 10, 2020: Kansas, Maine, and Missouri issue temporary RIN orders; Mississippi issues temporary RON and RIN orders; Michigan, Tennessee, and Texas, which have RON laws; also issue temporary RIN orders
  • Week of April 17, 2020: Delaware issues temporary RIN orders; New Jersey and Pennsylvania issue temporary RON orders
  • Week of April 24, 2020: Massachusetts issues temporary RIN order
  • Week of May 1, 2020: Alaska enacts a RON law; Rhode Island and South Carolina issue temporary RIN orders
  • May 8, 2020: North Carolina enacts temporary RIN order