When to Dump a Signing
Dumping (backing out of or adjourning) a signing is to be avoided at (almost) all costs. However, that “almost” does allow for some exceptions. As Signing Agents many people are depending on us to perform on time, flawlessly, and without fail. Unfortunately, that is sometimes an unrealistic goal and we must occasionally face the reality that not all assignments that we accept can be completed. It’s just good manners and proper professionalism to give a much notice as possible prior to taking this drastic action.
In the real world we serve “two masters”. The first is our client; the one who we “hope” will be paying for our services. The other is ourselves. I don’t know of any agents who are doing signings as a hobby. They do it for the money – to make a living. Thus, it becomes necessary to balance the moral obligation (to complete the assignment) against the need to earn a fee. We all know it is reprehensible to dump an assignment to accept a more lucrative one; similarly it is wrong to “overbook” and “run late” disappointing the borrowers, title companies, etc.
However, there are times when the warning signs clearly indicate disaster ahead. As a NewYorkMobileNotaryPublic.com I VERY rarely “dump” a signing – but it does happen. Most of us have had situations where we could not notarize (no ID, name mismatch, etc.) document(s). Similarly, there are times when we should retreat from a (probably) doomed signing assignment.
We work in a free market economy. Signing Agents and their employers both wish to maximize profits. That is right and proper. But, there are ethical limits – flagrant “mis-truths” – designed to exploit the party on the other side – can and do occur.
When you get a signing assignment request, get as much information as possible. Always log the caller’s name and company as well as their phone number. Once the logistics (date, time, edoc?, faxing?, and fee are resolved – Immediately ask for the name of the borrower and their phone number too. If you “have” the assignment the caller should be willing to give you the borrower information, if not, they might be putting you “on the hook” – and then start shopping for a lower priced agent – with you as a “fallback”. The “other side” does not like to have borrowers contacted by multiple notaries.
Most of our assignments are edoc. We have calendars and plan to optimize our day; processing as much as is practical. When Kenneth-A-Edelstein.com accepts an edoc, I generally tell the caller that I need an hour to print and review the docs; and an additional hour; due to NYC traffic, to get to the assignment. I allow a reasonable time to process the package and often have an obligation scheduled subsequently. I understand that late docs are often unavoidable; however that does not mean that I should “blow away” my other obligation. I inform my client of a “cutoff” time by which the docs (including final HUD) must be in my inbox if I am to proceed. Of course if I can wait, I do. But not at the expense of the innocent party scheduled to follow.
There is also an issue with “known non-payers” and “unrated” clients. I can’t check the history of callers while driving a car. I accept the assignment, and do my “due diligence” as to their payment history when I can. If they have a bad payment history on Rotary or 123, or no history at all – it’s “up front” on PayPal, or the assignment is deleted from my calendar. Most of my clients accept the argument that when my credentials (A+ BBB, 123 feedback, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) are solid; and theirs are negative or non-existent – it’s logical for them to “trust me” (by prepaying) rather than me “trust them” to send a check.
Another warning sign to me is the unavailability of a valid contact number for the borrower. In almost every case this has lead to disaster. If it’s not an ID mismatch, it’s a wrong meeting address or date/time error. I have a policy of not printing the edoc until I am able to confirm the ID, location (including the often overlooked company name & floor/room), date and time. As I write this I have a job “pending” where I was given two contact numbers. One was for a totally different person the other was out of service. I emailed the Signing
Service with a very reasonable deadline for me to receive a correct borrower phone number.
We have all heard the term “bait and switch”. It also applies to what we do. When the job is described as “A” and becomes “Z” – it’s time to re-discuss the fee. Not for little issues, not to nitpick about 100 pages being 125 pages. But, if the scheduler says “no faxing” and when the docs arrive they want the entire 125 pages faxed – that’s a real issue. Sometimes a “tiny” refi can arrive as a “piggyback”. If they are not willing to change the fee based on a change in the work – it’s “dump” time. But go carefully here; the Signing Service often does not know the “scope” of the work when they contact you. A gentle call describing the situation, generally works wonders.
I used to think personal safety would be an irrefutable reason to cancel an appointment. I was wrong; according to an employer who shall remain unnamed. While waiting for a (late) borrower, after 45 minutes – freezing rain started to fall; forming a slick coat of ice on the roadways. The signing location was in a very hilly part of the Bronx in New York City. Weather reports were warning of a major Ice Storm, a rare event in NYC. As the ice started to accumulate I made the decision to leave (with the docs) and get home – slowly and carefully. The Signing Service called me when I arrived home to inform me of the borrower’s arrival (over an hour late). They insisted that I return to the treacherous roads to complete my assignment. That did not happen.
How about “at the table”? After all the preliminaries are resolved and the signing has actually started no one wants an “unhappy” ending. But, even at this stage it can happen. I have had a situation where the attorney for the borrower, over my objection, made changes to the documents. Not typo corrections, but literally dozens of revisions to “protect my client’s constitutional rights”. I knew the docs were destined for the shredder on sight. The last straw was the attorney’s refusal to even speak to title, escrow, lender or anyone else. I adjourned the “farce in progress”.
We know to not discuss why the interest rate is X and not Y. This is when the borrower needs to speak to someone with the proper authority and accurate information to answer their question. They place a call (or a few) and wait, and wait, and wait…… How long is reasonable for me to wait if they are “stalled” on a specific issue. Even with a Right to Cancel, not every borrower is willing to sign something they feel is inaccurate. I don’t have a set limit to “wait for callback” – but I certainly will not wait over an hour if the process has stopped.
A final “at the table”, and probably weirdest event, happened to me. The son, who also was an attorney, was present at the signing. He said he “represented” his mother. He insisted that I only converse with him and not speak to his mother. Odd, but certainly not a show stopper. The straw that broke this camel’s back was his insistence on responding to the Notary Oath – for her! It was not a language issue, everyone present spoke English; and he conversed with her frequently. But he would not permit me to “oath” her directly! That set of documents would not get my signature!
The Blog section of 123Notary.Com supports reader comments to posts. I sincerely solicit your feedback to this blog entry. The issue of “dumping” an assignment is an important one. It is likely that my peers will disagree with some of my reasoning. It’s equally likely that I overlooked to mention some important considerations, which should have been included. Please post your comments, so that I (and others) may learn from your experiences. Your feedback will help all Signing Agents, to develop personal policies that are fair to their clients, and themselves.
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