Governor Authorizes Temporary Use of Remote Online Notarization

By Kim Shindle | March 27, 2020 | 3 min. read

A temporary notarial rule suspension to allow for remote online notarization of documents in a limited category of real estate transactions was approved by Gov. Tom Wolf this week.

For residential real estate transactions, the new rule only applies to transactions that were already in process (e.g. agreement of sale completed for residential property and only final closing needs to take place) at the time of the governor’s declared state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 6.

“We’re pleased Gov. Wolf has issued this temporary ruling to allow Realtors® to help our clients remotely during this crisis,” said PAR President Bill Festa. “Homeowners and buyers with upcoming closings will be able to continue the process of selling and buying their homes remotely thanks to this temporary suspension.” Festa noted that PAR continues to advocate for the passage House Bill 1564 (Emerick, R-Northampton), which passed the House earlier this week and would permanently allow remote online notarization.

This limited suspension, with the safeguards described below, will enable real estate professionals to complete transactions begun prior to the disaster declaration, but protect Pennsylvanians by limiting visitors to private homes and enabling real estate professionals to comply with the governor’s directive regarding non-life sustaining businesses.

For commercial real estate transactions, the governor approved a similar suspension of the rules for both transactions that were already in process as well as new transactions during the emergency period. These suspensions will allow transactions that may be needed to assist in responding to this public health emergency, including possible needs for emergency allocation or transfer of property during this disaster declaration, while also protecting Pennsylvanians and enabling real estate professionals to comply with the governor’s directive regarding life-sustaining vs. non-life sustaining businesses.

Notaries must execute all notarial acts (including acknowledgments) in accordance with all other requirements of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts.

Not all notaries are able to do business remotely, so check with your local notary to ensure they are able to conduct business in this manner.

All notaries who are using audio-visual technology as an alternative to personal appearance must:

  • Become an approved Pennsylvania electronic notary (free application)
  • Use an e-notary solution already approved by the Department of State that offers remote notarization technology
  • Indicate in the notary certificate that the notarial act was performed by means of communication technology. The following statement will satisfy that requirement – “This notarial act involved the use of communication technology.”

More information is available on the department’s notaries webpage.

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