Government knows it has a problem.
In a recently concluded report, the Commission to Study Title Insurance in Maryland, appointed by the legislature two years ago, wants the insurance commissioner to study setting up a guaranty fund to pay back future victims. It also suggests making title-insurance underwriters more responsible for the behavior of agents such as Sybert who represent them at the closing table.
Those are decent ideas. But the report lacks a sense of urgency and outrage over the mounting rip-offs. It seems far too easy to obtain a title-insurance agent's license in Maryland; there are more than 400 agencies. Why Sybert was allowed to stay in business with his blemished record is a mystery. Here's the whole article.
As an honest hard working title insurance agent, like all honest hard working title insurance agents, it galls me to no end that underwriters and regulators don't take our role as the guardians of the gates of fidelity more seriously. Title insurance agents more than any other party in a real estate transaction have the ability to detect and stop fraud. We also have our hands on millions of dollars and no one seems to understand how critical the role of title insurance agents can be in maintaining a secure and stable real estate market. We can't control natural market swings but we can, if we aren't working under conflicts of interest and have been vetted for security and competency, do much to eliminate fraud theft and abuse.
We have to work everyday in an industry filled with crooks and that puts our livelihood at risk because people can't tell the difference between players. They trust that a license to operate means something.
Even in PA where we have a good investigative insurance department staff, the oversight of escrow account practices seems to lay in a black hole between the Department of Insurance and the Department of Banking Lots of crooks in all states have been caught and taken out of the business in these last couple of years or so, but we still don't have good vetting in place to create licensure that means something. I know regulators and underwriters are working on it. It's hard because there is a political dynamic underlying the entire process. Isn't that surprising...ha-hah. When so much money is in play, there is always a force working to protect referral structures. If you are a consumer, please be careful and make certain YOU select your title insurance agent by shopping for price and quality of procedure. Talk with people and see if you think they actually "know" their product. You need title insurance. The protection of the product is real, but you do need to be careful that you aren't being steered or lured into a bad situation.
Good luck to best wishes to all those doing it the honest way. There are more of us than the bad guys, so hang in there and keep on keeping on...we'll fix this. ;)