Chapter 3953: TITLE INSURANCE

3953.01 Title insurance definitions.

As used in this chapter:

(A) "Title insurance" means insuring, guaranteeing, or indemnifying owners of real property or others interested in real property against loss or damage suffered by reason of liens or encumbrances upon, defect in, or the unmarketability of the title to the real property, guaranteeing, warranting, or otherwise insuring by a title insurance company the correctness of searches relating to the title to real property, or doing any business in substance equivalent to any of the foregoing.

(B) "The business of title insurance" means the following:

(1) The making as insurer, guarantor, or surety, or proposing to make as insurer, guarantor, or surety, any contract or policy of title insurance;

(2) The transacting, or proposing to transact, any phase of title insurance, including solicitation, negotiation preliminary to execution, execution of a contract of title insurance, insuring, and transacting matters subsequent to the execution of the contract and arising out of it, including reinsurance;

(3) The doing or proposing to do any business in substance equivalent to any of the foregoing.

(C) "Title insurance company" means any of the following:

(1) Any domestic title guaranty company and domestic title guarantee and trust company to the extent that they are engaged in the business of title insurance;

(2) Any domestic company organized under this chapter for the purpose of insuring titles to real property;

(3) Any title insurance company organized under the laws of another state or foreign government;

(4) Any domestic or foreign company that has the powers and is authorized to insure titles to real estate within this state on December 12, 1967, and that meets the requirements of this chapter.

(D) "Applicants for insurance" includes all those, whether or not a prospective insured, who from time to time apply to a title insurance company or to its agent for title insurance and who at the time of that application are not agents for a title insurance company.

(E) "Risk premium" for title insurance means that portion of the fee charged by a title insurance company, agent of a title insurance company, or approved attorney of a title insurance company to an insured or an applicant for insurance for the assumption by the title insurance company of the risk created by the issuance of the title insurance policy.

(F) "Fee" for title insurance means the risk premium, abstracting or searching charge, examination charge, and every other charge, exclusive of settlement, closing, or escrow charges, whether denominated premium or otherwise, made by a title insurance company, agent of a title insurance company, or an approved attorney of a title insurance company to an insured or an applicant for insurance for any policy or contract for the issuance of title insurance. "Fee" does not include any charges paid to and retained by an attorney at law or abstractor acting as an independent contractor whether or not the attorney or abstractor is acting as an agent of a title insurance company or an approved attorney and does not include any charges made for special services not constituting title insurance, even though performed in connection with a title insurance policy or contract.

(G) "Approved attorney" means an attorney at law who is not an employee of a title insurance company or a title insurance agent and upon whose examination of title and report on the examination a title insurance company may issue a policy of title insurance.

(H) "Title insurance agent" means a person, partnership, or corporation authorized in writing by a title insurance company to solicit insurance and collect premiums and to issue or countersign policies on its behalf. "Title insurance agent" does not include officers and salaried employees of any title insurance company authorized to do a title insurance business within this state.

(I) "Single insurance risk" means the insured amount of any policy or contract of title insurance issued by a title insurance company.

(J) "Foreign title insurance company" means a title insurance company organized under the laws of any state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia.

(K) "Alien title insurance company" means a title insurance company that is incorporated or organized under the laws of any foreign nation or any province or territory of a foreign nation and that is not "a foreign title insurance company."

(L) "Non-directed escrow funds" means any funds delivered to a title insurance agent or title insurance company with instructions to hold or disburse the funds pursuant to a transaction in which a title insurance policy will be issued, but without written instructions to either deposit the funds in an account for the benefit of a specific person, or to pay the interest earned on the funds to a specific person.

(M) "Business day" means any day, other than a Saturday or Sunday, or a legal holiday, on which a bank, savings and loan association, credit union, or savings bank is open to the public for carrying on substantially all of its functions.

(N) "Housing accommodations" and "restrictive covenant" have the same meanings as in section 4112.01 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 03-30-1999

3953.02 Application of chapter.

Chapter 3953: of the Revised Code applies to all title insurance companies, title insurance rating organizations, title insurance agents, applicants for title insurance, policyholders, and to all persons and business entities engaged in the business of title insurance.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.03 Only title insurance company to engage in title insurance business.

On and after December 12, 1967, only a title insurance company as defined in division (C) of section 3953.01 of the Revised Code shall underwrite or issue a policy of title insurance. No person, firm, association, corporation, cooperative, joint-stock company, partnership, or trust shall engage in the business of title insurance in this state unless authorized to transact such a business by this chapter.

Effective Date: 03-26-1971

3953.04 Title insurance company to be organized as stock corporation.

A title insurance company shall be organized as a stock corporation as provided in Chapters 1701. and 3929. of the Revised Code, except as specified in this chapter. Every title insurance company that is authorized to do a title insurance business in this state shall comply with sections 3929.30 and 3953.29 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 03-30-1999

3953.05 Minimum capital and surplus.

Every title insurance company incorporated or admitted in this state after December 12, 1967, shall have a minimum capital and surplus as required by section 3925.12 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 03-26-1971

3953.06 Depositing securities.

Every title insurance company, prior to the issuance of any policy of title insurance in this state, shall deposit with the superintendent of insurance, for the security and protection of its policyholders in this state, fifty thousand dollars in bonds of the United States or of this state, or of a county, township, or municipal corporation in this state, which bonds shall not be received by the superintendent at a rate above their par value. The securities deposited may be exchanged from time to time for other securities. So long as the company continues solvent and complies with the laws of this state, it may collect the interest on the deposits. The deposit shall be governed by sections 3929.07 to 3929.09 of the Revised Code.

A title guarantee and trust company organized and engaged in business in this state under sections 1735.01 to 1735.04 of the Revised Code, as of August 6, 1941, which has on deposit with the treasurer of state the sum of fifty thousand dollars, as provided in section 1735.03 of the Revised Code, may in addition to its other powers, write title insurance without making an additional deposit therefor.

Effective Date: 08-08-1991

3953.07 Sound underwriting practices.

No policy or contract of title insurance shall be written unless it is based upon a reasonable examination of the title unless a determination of insurability of title has been made in accordance with sound underwriting practices for title insurance companies and unless, on and after the effective date of this amendment, section 3953.29 of the Revised Code is complied with in connection with registered land. Evidence that a reasonable examination of a title has been made shall be preserved and retained in the files of the title insurance company or its agents for a period of not less than ten years after the policy or contract of title insurance has been issued. This section does not apply to a company assuming no primary liability in a contract of reinsurance and does not apply to a company acting as a coinsurer if one of the other coinsuring companies has complied with this section.

Effective Date: 03-30-1999

3953.08 Permitted services.

Every title insurance company may do the kinds of business defined in divisions (A) and (B) of section 3953.01 of the Revised Code, and may provide any other services related to the land title business.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.09 Prohibited services.

A title insurance company shall not engage in the business of guaranteeing the payment of the principal or the interest of notes, bonds, or other obligations secured by mortgages upon real property. A title insurance company shall not engage in the business of guaranteeing the completion of improvements in this state. Notwithstanding section 1735.01 of the Revised Code, a title guarantee and trust company may not guarantee the collection of interest and principal of mortgage loans.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.10 Title insurance company to engage in title insurance only.

Title insurance, except for reinsurance as provided in section 3953.13 of the Revised Code, shall be transacted, underwritten, or issued only by a company organized or admitted for issuance of no other form of insurance in this state. A title insurance company shall not transact any other form of insurance business in this state. No company may be organized or admitted in this state after December 12, 1967, to transact, underwrite, or issue title insurance if it engages in any form of insurance business other than title insurance.

Effective Date: 03-26-1971

3953.11 Unearned premium reserve.

(A) The unearned premium reserve of every title company shall consist of:

(1) The amount of the unearned premium reserve held as of December 12, 1967, pursuant to or under permission granted by any prior statutes of this state or the voluntary unearned premium reserves held by any domestic title guarantee and trust company or domestic title guarantee company as of December 31, 1966;

(2) The amount of all additions required to be made to such reserve by this section, less the withdrawals therefrom as permitted by this section;

(3) The entire amount of the reserves required to be transferred pursuant to division (A) of this section, or pursuant to or under authority of any prior statutes of this state, shall be presumed to have been added to the reserve in the calendar year next preceding the effective date of this chapter, and shall be released from said reserve and restored to income in the year of release under the formula set forth in division (B) of this section.

(B) Every title insurance company shall reserve, as the unearned portion of the original premium, an amount equal to ten per cent of the title insurance premium received or receivable by such company during the preceding calendar year for the issuance of policies insuring titles to property located in this state, and shall annually, on or before the first day of February, deposit with the superintendent of insurance an amount equal to such unearned premium reserve in cash or securities as specified in sections 3925.05 to 3925.08 of the Revised Code, provided that such deposit shall not exceed an aggregate amount of two hundred fifty thousand dollars. At the end of each year, the company shall withdraw from the reserve retained by it an amount equal to one-half of one per cent of the original premium until the total amount of the reserve has been withdrawn.

The superintendent shall be furnished annually with a sworn statement showing the amount of title insurance premiums received during the preceding calendar year on title insurance policies covering titles to property situated in this state, the amount required to be reserved as the unearned portion of the premium thereon, and the amount to be withdrawn under this section.

The difference between the amount of reserve required to be deposited and the amount of withdrawals permitted shall be deposited with or withdrawn from the superintendent. In calculating reserves, title insurance policies shall be considered as dated in the middle of the calendar year during which they were issued.

All reserve deposits required to be made by this section shall be tax free and shall be made and held in trust exclusively for the benefit and protection of holders of policies of the depositor covering titles to property situated in this state. So long as any company depositing such reserves continues solvent and complies with the laws of this state, the superintendent shall permit it to collect the interest, or dividends or distributions, on such securities, and to withdraw them, or a part thereof on depositing with him other securities of the kinds referred to by this section, and of equal value with those withdrawn. The superintendent may require that additional eligible securities be deposited with him to make good any depreciation or reduction which may occur in the market value of any of the securities deposited.

Effective Date: 06-14-1988

3953.12 Other reserves.

(A) Each title insurance company shall at all times establish and maintain, in addition to other reserves, a reserve:

(1) Against unpaid losses;

(2) Against loss expense, and shall calculate such reserves by making a careful estimate in each case of the loss expense likely to be incurred, by reason of every claim presented, pursuant to notice from or on behalf of the insured, of a title defect in or lien or adverse claim against the title insured, that may result in a loss or cause expense to be incurred for the proper disposition of the claim. The sums of the items so estimated shall be the total amount of the reserves against unpaid losses and loss expenses of such title insurance company.

(B) The amount so estimated may be revised from time to time as circumstances warrant, but shall be redetermined at least once each year.

(C) The amounts set aside in such reserves in any year shall be treated as an expense in determining the net profits for such year of any title insurance company.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.13 Reinsurance.

Any title insurance company authorized to engage in the business of title insurance in this state may cede reinsurance of all or any part of its liability under one or more of its policies or contracts or reinsurance agreements to any other title insurance company authorized to engage in the business of title insurance in this or any other state, or the District of Columbia which meets the financial requirements necessary to qualify to do a title insurance business in this state. It may also reinsure policies of title insurance issued by other companies on risks whether located in this state or elsewhere. Any domestic title insurance company or any foreign title insurance company authorized to transact business in this state shall pay to this state taxes required on all business taxable within this state and reinsured, as provided in this section, with any foreign company authorized to do business within this state. Issuance of contracts of reinsurance by a title insurance company not authorized to engage in the business of title insurance in this state, but authorized to engage in the business of title insurance in any of the United States, reinsuring a title insurance company authorized to engage in the business of title insurance in this state on real property located in this state, shall not of itself constitute the doing of business in this state by such reinsuring company. If any domestic title insurance company is unable to obtain reinsurance from another title insurance company, then after filing of an affidavit to that effect with the superintendent of insurance it may reinsure with any insurance company.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.14 Investments.

(A) Except as provided in Chapter 3953. of the Revised Code the investments of a title insurance company shall be governed by sections 3925.05 to 3925.21 , inclusive, of the Revised Code.

(B) Provided it shall at all times keep at least one hundred thousand dollars invested in the classes of securities authorized for the investment of capital other than title plant and real estate as provided in division (C) of this section, a title insurance company may invest not more than ten per cent of its admitted assets in a title plant without the prior approval of the superintendent. The title plant shall be considered an admitted asset at the fair value thereof. In determining the fair value of a title plant, no value shall be attributed to furniture and fixtures, and the real estate in which the title plant is housed shall be carried as real estate. The value of title abstracts, title briefs, copies of conveyances or other documents, indices, and other records comprising the title plant, shall be determined by considering the expenses incurred in obtaining them, the age thereof, the cost of replacements less depreciation, and all other relevant factors. Once the value of a title plant has been determined, such value may be increased only by the acquisition of another title plant by purchase, consolidation, or merger; in no event shall the value of the title plan [plant] be increased by additions made thereto as part of the normal course of abstracting and insuring titles to real estate. Subject to the above limitations and with the approval of the superintendent of insurance, a title insurance company may enter into agreements with one or more other title insurance companies authorized to do business in this state, whereby such companies shall participate in the ownership, management, and control of a title plant to service the needs of all such companies or such companies may hold stock of a corporation owning and operating a title plant for such purposes; provided that each of the companies participating in the ownership, management, and control of such jointly owned title plant shall keep the sum of one hundred thousand dollars invested as above set forth.

(C) Any title insurance company may purchase, receive, hold, and convey real estate or any interest therein:

(1) Required for its convenient accommodation in the transaction of its business with reasonable regard to future needs;

(2) Acquired in connection with a claim under a policy of title insurance;

(3) Acquired in satisfaction or on account of loans, mortgages, liens, judgments, or decrees, previously owing to it in the course of its business;

(4) Acquired in part payment of the consideration of the sale of real property owned by it if the transaction results in a net reduction in the company's investment in real estate;

(5) Reasonably necessary for the purpose of maintaining or enhancing the sale value of real property previously acquired or held by it under subdivisions (1), (2), (3), or (4) of this division.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.15 Investment of unearned premium reserve.

The unearned premium reserve of a title insurance company shall be invested in accordance with sections 3925.05 to 3925.08 , inclusive, of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.16 Investment of trust funds or assets held in fiduciary capacity.

For those title insurance companies which also have powers to do a trust business, trust funds or assets held in a fiduciary capacity shall be invested in accordance with the statutes of this state governing trust companies.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.17 Foreign title insurance company - license.

Any title insurance company organized under the laws of another state or foreign government shall be licensed to transact a title insurance business within this state only if such company is and remains of the same standard of solvency and complies with other requirements fixed by the laws of this state for title insurance companies organized and authorized to transact the business of title insurance pursuant to the laws of this state.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.18 Prohibition against policies covering real property - exceptions.

No title insurance company not incorporated or organized under the laws of this state, but authorized to transact business herein, shall make, write, place, or cause to be made, written, or placed any policy or contract of insurance covering real property in this state, except;

(A) Through a title insurance agent as defined in Chapter 3905. of the Revised Code;

(B) Through a subsidiary title insurance company;

(C) Through a bona fide branch office located in this state and under the direction and control of such title insurance company, all expenses of which branch office, including compensation of all employees are paid by such title insurance company;

(D) This section is not applicable to contracts of reinsurance, or to policies of excess coinsurance.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.19 Merger and consolidation.

(A) A title insurance company organized and incorporated under the laws of this state may merge, be merged by, or consolidated with, one or more title insurance companies whether or not so incorporated, by complying with Chapter 1701. of the Revised Code, but subject to the following:

(1) No such merger or consolidation shall be effectuated unless in advance thereof, the plan and agreement therefor have been filed with the superintendent of insurance. The superintendent shall examine the terms and conditions of such merger or consolidation, and of any exchange of shares or securities pursuant thereto, after holding a hearing at which all persons or parties to whom it is proposed to issue shares or securities in such exchange shall have the right to appear. After such hearing, the superintendent shall either approve or disapprove the fairness of such terms and conditions of exchange. The superintendent shall give such approval within a reasonable time after filing of a plan or agreement unless he finds such plan or agreement:

(a) Is contrary to law;

(b) Is inequitable to the stockholders of such title insurance company; or

(c) Would substantially, reduce the security of and services to be rendered to policyholders of the domestic title insurance company in this state or elsewhere.

(2) Where such merger or consolidation involves a parent company absorbing a wholly owned subsidiary, the superintendent may, in his discretion, dispense with the holding of a hearing.

(B) No director, officer, agent, or employee of any title insurance company party to such acquisition shall receive any fee, commission, compensation or other valuable consideration whatsoever for in any manner, aiding, promoting, or assisting therein except as set forth in such plan or agreement.

(C) If the superintendent of insurance does not approve any such plan or agreement, he shall notify the title insurance company in writing, specifying in detail his reasons therefor.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.20 Prior approval required for acquisition of other title insurance company.

(A) A title insurance company organized and incorporated under the laws of this state may issue stock in exchange for all or any part of the assets or stock of a domestic or foreign title insurance company if, in advance thereof, a plan or agreement of acquisition has been filed with the superintendent of insurance. The superintendent shall examine the terms and conditions of such plan or agreement of acquisition, and of any exchange of shares or securities pursuant thereto, after holding a hearing at which all persons or parties to whom it is proposed to issue shares or securities in such exchange shall have the right to appear. After such hearing, the superintendent shall either approve or disapprove the fairness of such terms and conditions of such acquisition and exchange. The superintendent shall give approval within a reasonable time after filing of a plan or agreement unless he finds such plan or agreement:

(1) Is contrary to law;

(2) Is inequitable to the stockholders of any title insurance company involved; or

(3) Would substantially reduce the security of and services to be rendered to policyholders of the domestic title insurance company in this state or elsewhere.

(B) No director, officer, agent, or employee of any title insurance company party to such acquisition shall receive any fee, commission, compensation, or other valuable consideration whatsoever for in any manner aiding, promoting, or assisting therein, except as set forth in such plan or agreement.

(C) If the superintendent does not approve any such plan or agreement, he shall notify the title insurance company in writing, specifying in detail his reasons therefor.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.21 Certification of title insurance agents.

(A) Every title insurance company authorized to transact business within this state shall certify annually to the superintendent of insurance the names of all title insurance agents representing it in this state in accordance with section 3905.20 of the Revised Code.

(B) No bank, trust company, bank and trust company, or other lending institution, mortgage service, brokerage, mortgage guaranty company, escrow company, real estate company or any subsidiaries thereof or any individuals so engaged shall be permitted to act as an agent for a title insurance company.

Effective Date: 09-01-2002

3953.22 Licensing title insurance agents.

(A) Title insurance agents shall be licensed in the manner provided for agents of insurance companies in Chapter 3905. of the Revised Code.

(B) A title insurance agent shall not be required to take an examination of such license if application for the original issuance of his license was filed with the superintendent of insurance on or before June 12, 1968.

Effective Date: 03-26-1971

3953.23 Maintaining books of account and record and vouchers.

(A) Every title insurance agent shall keep books of account and record and vouchers pertaining to the business of title insurance in such manner that the title insurance company may readily ascertain from time to time whether the agent has complied with this chapter.

(B) A title insurance agent may engage in the business of handling escrows of real property transactions provided that the agent shall maintain a separate record of all receipts and disbursements of escrow funds and shall not commingle any such funds with the agent's own funds or with funds held by the agent in any other capacity; and if at any time the superintendent of insurance determines that an agent has failed to comply with any of the provisions of this section, the superintendent may revoke the license of the agent pursuant to section 3905.14 of the Revised Code, subject to review as provided for in Chapter 119. of the Revised Code.

(C) All title insurance agents or agencies that handle escrows in real property transactions not involving the issuance of title insurance shall have coverage that protects the parties to such transactions against theft, misappropriation, fraud, or any other failure to properly disburse settlement, closing, or escrow funds. The superintendent shall adopt rules under Chapter 119. of the Revised Code setting forth the minimum requirements for such coverage, including, but not limited to, the minimum amounts, terms, and conditions of such coverage.

(D) The superintendent shall require every title insurance agent or agency and any subcontractors to maintain an errors and omissions policy, in any amount exceeding minimum limits established by the superintendent, that includes but is not limited to coverage for the agent's or agency's delegation of any agent or agency function. The superintendent shall adopt rules under Chapter 119. of the Revised Code setting forth the minimum requirements for that coverage, including but not limited to the minimum amounts, terms, and conditions of the coverage.

Effective Date: 09-01-2002; 01-01-2007

3953.231 Establishing and maintaining interest-bearing trust account for deposit of non-directed escrow funds.

(A)

(1) Each title insurance agent or title insurance company shall establish and maintain an interest-bearing trust account for the deposit of all non-directed escrow funds that meet the requirements of sections 1349.20 to 1349.22 of the Revised Code.

(2) The account shall be established and maintained in any federally insured bank, savings and loan association, credit union, or savings bank that is authorized to transact business in this state.

(3) The account shall be in the name of the title insurance agent or company, and shall be identified as an "interest on trust account" or "IOTA." The name of the account may contain additional identifying information to distinguish it from other accounts.

(4) The title insurance agent or company establishing the account shall submit, in writing, to the superintendent of insurance the name, account number, and location of the bank, savings and loan association, credit union, or savings bank in which the trust account is maintained.

(B) Each title insurance agent or company shall deposit all non-directed escrow funds that are nominal in amount or are to be held for a short period of time into the account established under division (A) of this section no later than the next business day after receipt.

(C) Each account established under division (A) of this section shall comply with all of the following:

(1) All funds in the account shall be subject to withdrawal or transfer upon request and without delay, or as soon as permitted by law;

(2) The rate of interest payable on the account shall not be less than the rate paid by the bank, savings and loan, credit union, or savings bank to its regular depositors. The rate may be higher if there is no impairment of the right to the immediate withdrawal or transfer of the principal;

(3) All interest earned on the account, net of service charges and other related charges, shall be transmitted to the treasurer of state for deposit in the legal aid fund established under section 120.52 of the Revised Code. No part of the interest earned shall be paid to the title insurance agent or company.

(D) The title insurance agent or company establishing an account under division (A) of this section shall direct the bank, savings and loan association, credit union, or savings bank to do both of the following:

(1) Remit interest or dividends on the average monthly balance in the account, or as otherwise computed in accordance with the standard accounting practice of the bank, savings and loan association, credit union, or savings bank, less reasonable service charges and other related charges, to the treasurer of state at least quarterly for deposit in the legal aid fund established under section 120.52 of the Revised Code;

(2) At the time of each remittance, transmit to the treasurer of state, and if requested, to the Ohio legal assistance foundation, and the title insurance agent or company, a statement showing the name of the title insurance agent or company for whom the remittance is sent, the rate of interest applied, the accounting period, the net amount remitted to the treasurer of state for each account, the total remitted, the average account balance for each month of the period for which the report is made, and the amount deducted for service charges and other related charges.

(E) The statements and reports submitted by the bank, savings and loan association, credit union, or savings bank under this section, are not public records subject to section 149.43 of the Revised Code and shall be used only to administer the legal aid fund.

(F) No funds belonging to a title insurance agent or company shall be deposited into an account established under division (A) of this section except funds necessary to pay service charges and other related charges of the bank, savings and loan association, credit union, or savings bank that are in excess of earnings on the account.

(G) No liability arising out of any negligent act or omission of any title insurance agent or company with respect to any account established under division (A) of this section shall be imputed to the bank, savings and loan association, credit union, or savings bank.

(H) No liability or responsibility arising out of any negligent act or omission of any title insurance agent with respect to any account established under division (A) of this section shall be imputed to a title insurance company.

(I) The superintendent may adopt, in accordance with Chapter 119. of the Revised Code, rules that pertain to the use of accounts established under division (A) of this section and to the enforcement of this section.

Effective Date: 01-01-1996

3953.24 Firm name of agent.

After December 12, 1967, no agent for a title insurance company shall adopt a firm name containing the words, "title insurance," "title guaranty," or "title guarantee."

Effective Date: 03-26-1971

3953.25 Commission payments.

A title insurance company may pay a commission only to a title insurance agent as defined in division (H) of section 3953.01 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.26 Payments for inducement of business.

No title insurance company and no title insurance agent shall pay or give [to] any applicant for insurance, or to any person, firm, or corporation who is acting as agent, representative, attorney, or employee of the owner, lessee, mortgagee, or of the prospective owner, lessee, or mortgagee of the real property or any interest therein, either directly or indirectly, any commission or any part of its fees or charges, or any other consideration or valuable thing, as an inducement for, or as compensation for, any title insurance business. Nothing in this section shall preclude the payment by a title insurance company of a commission to any attorney, if said attorney is also a licensed title insurance agent of such title insurance company, or the payment by such title insurance company or its agent of a fee to an attorney for services rendered in the examination of title or certification thereof.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.27 Division of fees and charges.

Nothing in this chapter prohibits the division of fees and charges between or among two or more title insurance companies or between or among one or more title insurance companies and one or more title insurance agents, between or among two or more title insurance agents, provided such division of fees and charges does not constitute an unlawful rebate or is not in payment of a forwarding fee or finder's fee.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.28 Prior approval required for forms and contracts.

Every title insurance company shall file with the superintendent of insurance, all forms of title policies and other contracts of title insurance before the same are issued. Any such filing may be made by a title insurance rating organization in behalf of all of its members or subscribers. In no event shall any title insurance company issue any such form of policy or contract until thirty days after it has been filed with the superintendent unless it has received earlier approval by the superintendent. Unless the superintendent disapproves a form of title policy or contract of title insurance within thirty days from the date of its filing, such filing shall be deemed to have been approved. Forms of title policies and other contracts of insurance, as used in this section, shall be deemed to include binders for insurance and policies of insurance or guaranty, together with all the terms and conditions of insurance coverage or guaranty that relate to title to any interest in real property and which are offered by a title insurance company. They shall, however, specifically exclude: reinsurance contracts or agreements, all specific defects in title that may be ascertained from any examination of the risk and excepted in such binders or policies, together with any affirmative assurance of the title insurance company with respect to such defects whether given by endorsement or otherwise, and such further exceptions from coverage by reason of limitations upon the examination of the risk imposed by an applicant for insurance or through failure of an applicant for insurance to provide the data requisite to a judgment of insurability.

Effective Date: 12-12-1967

3953.29 Prohibiting restrictive covenants constituting unlawful discriminatory practice.

On and after the effective date of this section, in connection with any transfer of registered land that occurs on or after that date in accordance with Chapters 5309. and 5310. of the Revised Code, no title insurance company shall write a policy or contract of title insurance that includes any specific reference to any restrictive covenant that appears to apply to the transferred registered land, if any inclusion of the restrictive covenant in a transfer, rental, or lease of housing accommodations, any honoring or exercising of the restrictive covenant, or any attempt to honor or exercise the restrictive covenant constitutes an unlawful discriminatory practice under division (H)(9) of section 4112.02 of the Revised Code. On and after the effective date of this section, if a policy or contract of title insurance written by a title insurance company in connection with any transfer of registered land that occurs on or after that date in accordance with Chapters 5309. and 5310. of the Revised Code includes a general or catch-all reference to easements, estates, liens, encumbrances, charges, rights, or restrictions of record, the general or catch-all reference shall be regarded by the parties to the transfer of the registered land and their successors in interest and shall be deemed for all legal purposes to refer to and incorporate by reference easements, estates, liens, encumbrances, charges, rights, and restrictions of record other than a restrictive covenant the inclusion of which in a transfer, rental, or lease of housing accommodations, the honoring or exercising of which, or the attempt to honor or exercise of which constitutes an unlawful discriminatory practice under division (H)(9) of section 4112.02 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 03-30-1999

3953.30 Notice comparing lender's and owner's title insurance.

(A) As used in this section:

(1) "Residential mortgage loan" means an obligation to pay a sum of money evidenced by a note and secured by a lien upon real property located within this state containing two or fewer residential units or on which two or fewer residential units are to be constructed and includes such an obligation on a residential condominium or cooperative unit.

(2) "Residential mortgage lender" means any person, including, but not limited to, banks, savings and loan associations, mortgage brokers, credit unions, or savings banks, that lends money or extends or grants credit and obtains a residential mortgage to assure payment of the debt.

(B) A title insurance agent issuing a lender's title insurance policy in conjunction with a residential mortgage loan made simultaneously with the purchase of all or part of the real property securing the loan, where no owner's title insurance policy has been requested, shall give written notice, on a form prescribed or approved by the superintendent of insurance, to the mortgagor at the time the commitment is prepared. The notice shall explain that a lender's title insurance policy is to be issued protecting the residential mortgage lender, and that the policy does not provide title insurance protection to the mortgagor as the owner of the property being purchased. The notice shall explain what an owner's title insurance policy insures against and what possible exposures exist for the mortgagor that could be insured against through the purchase of an owner's title insurance policy. The notice shall state that the mortgagor may obtain an owner's title insurance policy protecting the mortgagor as the owner of the property, either at a specified cost or at an approximate cost if the proposed coverages or amount of insurance is not then known. The title insurance agent shall maintain a copy of the notice, signed by the mortgagor, for at least ten years after the effective date of the lender's title insurance policy.

Effective Date: 01-01-2007; 04-06-2007

3953.32 Offer of closing or settlement protection to parties.

(A) At the time an order is placed with a title insurance company for issuance of a title insurance policy, the title insurance company or the title insurance agent shall offer closing or settlement protection to the lender, borrower, and seller of the property, and to any applicant for title insurance.

(B) The closing or settlement protection offered pursuant to this section shall indemnify any lender, borrower, seller, and applicant that has requested the protection, both individually and collectively, against the loss of settlement funds resulting from any of the following acts of the title insurance company's named title insurance agent or anyone acting on the agent's behalf:

(1) Theft, misappropriation, fraud, or any other failure to properly disburse settlement, closing, or escrow funds;

(2) Failure to comply with any applicable written closing instructions, when agreed to by the title insurance agent.

(C) The issuance of closing or settlement protection by a title insurance company pursuant to division (A) of this section is part of the business of title insurance for purposes of Chapter 3953. of the Revised Code.

(D) Except as provided in division (A) of this section, a title insurance company shall not offer or issue any coverage purporting to indemnify against a person's improper acts or omissions in connection with escrow, settlement, or closing services.

(E) The superintendent of insurance may adopt rules in accordance with Chapter 119. of the Revised Code as the superintendent considers necessary to carry out the purposes of this section, including, but not limited to, rules that detail the specific language that must be included in the written document offering closing or settlement protection as provided for in division (A) of this section.

Effective Date: 01-01-2007; 04-06-2007

3953.33 Annual independent review of agency accounts.

(A) Every title insurance agent or agency that handles escrow, settlement, closing, or security deposit accounts shall have an independent review made of its escrow, settlement, closing, and security deposit accounts each year on or before the thirty-first day of December for the twelve-month period ending the preceding thirty-first day of August. The title insurance agent or agency shall provide proof of the annual review to each title insurance company that it represents. The superintendent of insurance shall promulgate rules under Chapter 119. of the Revised Code setting forth the minimum threshold level at which a review is required, the standards of the review, the minimum qualifications of the independent party conducting the review, and the form of the report that is required. The superintendent may also require title insurance agents or agencies to provide a copy of their annual review reports to the superintendent. The annual review required by this division does not apply to interest on lawyer's trust accounts established and maintained by an attorney pursuant to sections 4705.09 and 4705.10 of the Revised Code.

(B) Title insurance agents and agencies shall allow the superintendent and each and every title insurer that they represent reasonable access to all of their escrow, settlement, closing, and security deposit accounts and any and all supporting account information in order to ascertain the safety and security of the funds held by the title insurance agent or agency.

(C) Title insurance agents and agencies shall maintain sufficient records of their affairs, including their escrow operations and escrow trust accounts, so that the superintendent may adequately ensure that the title insurance agent or agency is in compliance of this chapter. Records kept pursuant to this section shall be kept for a period of not less than ten years following the transactions to which the records relate. The superintendent may prescribe the specific records and documents to be kept.

Effective Date: 01-01-2007; 04-06-2007; 2007 HB157 03-24-2008

3953.35 Prohibited conduct regarding loans of seventy-five thousand dollars or less.

(A) No title insurance agent shall do any of the following in connection with a mortgage loan of seventy-five thousand dollars or less:

(1) Knowingly coerce or wrongfully instruct the consumer to enter into the loan;

(2) Knowingly fail to disclose to the consumer that the consumer does not have to close on the loan;

(3) Knowingly make a material misrepresentation to the consumer regarding the terms of the loan.

(B) A violation of this section is deemed an unfair and deceptive act or practice in violation of section 1345.02 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 01-01-2007