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Cuomo allowing virtual notarizations during crisis

The real estate industry is cheering an executive order by Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday that allows the temporary virtual notarization of documents that would normally have to be notarized in person.

With coronavirus having kept many people in their homes — even before Cuomo’s latest order for all non-essential New Yorkers to stay home — the inability to get notarizations had brought the closing of real estate transactions to a near dead stop.

However, yesterday’s executive order will allow business transactions to move forward with notarizations that can be performed using audio-video technology under certain conditions.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo for his exemplary leadership during this time of crisis,” said Real Estate Board of New York President James Whelan, in response to the order.

“This Executive Order is an important and sensible step that will shift real estate closing transactions away from traditional person-to-person contact towards a modern, 21st century solution so desperately needed to keep critical parts of our economy moving safely during this time of crisis,” Whelan said. “We continue to advocate for additional common-sense solutions and technical advances like these to support our industry and help keep New Yorkers safe. It is our civic responsibility to ensure that New Yorkers take every measure possible to protect the health and safety of our community.”

The following are the conditions that must be met for virtual notarization:

  • The person seeking the Notary’s services, if not personally known to the Notary, must present valid photo ID to the Notary during the video conference, not merely transmit it prior to or after;
  • The video conference must allow for direct interaction between the person and the Notary (e.g. no pre-recorded videos of the person signing);
  • The person must affirmatively represent that he or she is physically situated in the State of New York;
  • The person must transmit by fax or electronic means a legible copy of the signed document directly to the Notary on the same date it was signed;
  • The notary may notarize the transmitted copy of the document and transmit the same back to the person; and,
  • The notary may repeat the notarization of the original signed document as of the date of execution provided the Notary receives such original signed document together with the electronically notarized copy within thirty days after the date of execution.

Warburg broker Jason Haber called the move significant in helping to keep the industry afloat — or at least treading water — as coronavirus cripples the market.

“This will greatly aid business transactions in New York State, including real estate closings, loans, and for all legal documents,” said Haber. “Before this Executive Order, notaries had to sign in person, which was nearly impossible due to the crisis. This arrested many business transactions across the state. Today’s announcement is huge news and will aid in keeping transactions moving forward in New York.”

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