in Real Estate Closed
“Licensed” vs. “Controlled”
All escrow companies in California can be classified into two basic categories: Licensed or Controlled. “Licensed” escrow companies are independent businesses licensed by the California Department of Business Oversight. This license regulates the procedures and practices of the companies and subjects them to stringent requirements designed to protect consumers. These higher standards address such important issues as bonding, trust fund insurance, CPA audits and financial liquidity guidelines.
“Controlled” escrow companies are non-licensed businesses that can be owned by a variety of entities, including real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, banks, savings and loans, and title insurance companies. Such companies fall under the jurisdiction of a variety of supervising agencies, with regulations and requirements that differ widely. One fact remains constant: None of these miscellaneous agencies answer to regulations as strict as those imposed on the escrow companies licensed by the Department of Business Oversight. For this reason, the necessity of contracting an independent, licensed escrow company such as Pacific Trust Escrow Inc. cannot be understated. Your security, peace of mind and ultimate success are at stake.
Although the majority of escrow officers are honest and above board, the large sums of money handled by escrow companies can entice unscrupulous individuals to abscond with the funds they are holding in trust. Unless the escrow company is bonded, there is often no safeguard assuring the return of the money to consumers.
Licensed escrow companies are consumers’ best bet for safeguarding their funds. All licensed escrow companies are required to be members of the Escrow Agents’ Fidelity Corporation, which provides fidelity coverage for member trust accounts in the amount of $5 Million. This fidelity bond guarantees that, in the event of theft of trust accounts, the consumers’ funds are protected.
The stringent requirements by the Department of Business Oversight assure that every licensed escrow company has met the highest standards in the industry. Consumer protection regulations unique to licensed escrow companies include:
• A certification program for all escrow officers in the company’s employ, including fingerprinting and background checks by the Department of Justice
• A requirement that an escrow manager with at least five years of experience be onsite
• Financial stability requirement, including, at a minimum, one CPA audit per year, while the Department of Business Oversight conducts random examinations.
• Requirement prohibiting employment of convicted felons or anyone who has been disbarred from the real estate industry
• Membership with the Escrow Agents’ Fidelity Corporation which provides a $5 Million Fidelity Bond
• Company’s sole business is doing escrow, which requires a higher level of state regulatory requirements and oversight.