Massachusetts finally passes RON legislation

Boston-based Notarize will soon finally be able to execute a digital real estate closing in its home state of Massachusetts. Governor Maura Healey on Wednesday signed legislation legalizing remote online notarizations (RON) to all notaries in the commonwealth.

With Healey’s signature, Massachusetts is now the 43rd state to legalize digital real estate closings, which started with Virginia in 2012. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2024.

“With this legislation being signed into law, Massachusetts becomes the first ever state to enact a comprehensive online notarization proposal that preserves the role of the attorney in a remote real estate closing process,” the company said in a statement this week. “Historically speaking, the Notarize for Real Estate platform has not been able to support closings for properties located within the Commonwealth because of a pre-existing requirement that an attorney both direct the closing and ensure that non-attorney notaries are not engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.”

Kostas Ligris, the founder and CEO of Massachusetts-based digital mortgage company Stavvy, said the legislation “marks a crucial milestone in addressing fragmentation within the mortgage industry and has set a precedent” for other attorney states, like Connecticut and South Carolina, to also move towards digitalization.

“As a Massachusetts-based company, it is exciting to see the immense potential RON technology presents to close financial gaps for underserved populations, providing consumers the opportunity to engage with service providers and execute secure, convenient real estate transactions, no matter where they are located,” he said. 

While California, Connecticut, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina have resisted digital closings, Delaware recently passed a RON law that’s set to take effect Aug. 1.

The House of Representatives passed a landmark RON bill in 2022, but the bill ground to a halt in the U.S. Senate.

Similarly, in California, the country’s biggest marketplace, a bill was passed by the Assembly in 2022 but died in the state Senate. Some notaries, as well as powerful groups such as the California Association of Realtors and the California Land Title Association, opposed certain provisions of the bill — notably one that would have subjected out-of-state notaries to strict California regulations when executing notarizations.

Other groups said language in the bill made it too easy for people to sue an online notarization platform.

An amended version of the bill, AB-743, reintroduced this year, is winding its way through committee.

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