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Let the title insurance industry do business in New York


File photo (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Homeownership is one of the largest investments many New Yorkers will make in their lifetime. Sadly, the title insurance industry that works hard to protect consumer’s investments has been the focal point of much misinformation.

It’s time to correct the record and talk about a plan to move the industry forward.

Title insurance provides New Yorkers peace of mind that their property rights are protected for as long as they own their home. There may be legal claims to a property, fraud, undisclosed taxes and liens or unforeseen financial circumstances that can remain hidden or undetected for years.

Title insurance protects homeowners against these looming threats.

That’s why title insurance companies have been around, protecting homeowners, for more than a century. The vast majority of the title industry in New York are small businesses like mine — more than 2,000, to be exact.

In 2017, the New York Department of Financial Services adopted new regulations that banned a slew of marketing and business practices in this already highly regulated industry. The list included many standard marketing activities afforded to other professions, such as buying lunch for a meeting or playing a round of golf.

Despite its seemingly well-intentioned goal to increase transparency, the new regulations effectively punished honest business owners for the actions of a few bad actors.

New legislation in Albany, which unanimously passed the state Assembly last week, would make common-sense changes to the state’s insurance law and allow title insurers to share a meal or a cup of coffee with a client or potential client when business is being discussed. This would restore a small but valuable marketing tool for title insurance companies across the state.

As title insurance companies rely on meetings and face time with clients and potential clients to grow their businesses, it’s a necessary one.

Importantly, the superintendent of the state’s Department of Financial Services continues to have the same discretion she has always had to determine what expenses are allowed or appropriate in all cases.

Opponents of the title industry are attempting to paint the entire industry as deceptive.

Contrary to these false attacks, most title insurance companies strongly support increased accountability in the industry. In fact, we advocated for the licensing of title agents for many years. We agree responsible regulation is good for everyone — small businesses, the state’s economy and consumers.

Leaders in Albany need to look past the rhetoric and strike a balance: Pass responsible legislation that enables small businesses to grow and prosper and at the same time, advances one of the cornerstones of New York’s economy, homeownership.

Stancanelli is vice president and principal of National Granite Title Insurance Agency, Inc.