Updated 1-28-16. From the day you receive your commission, most of you know the major rules associated with performing your vital role — the importance of requiring physical appearance, properly identifying signers, recordkeeping in journal states, to name a few. But you may be less aware of the following missteps that Notaries often make, which can also land you in hot water. In most cases, a little due diligence and care will keep you on the straight and narrow.
Judges and juries form opinions about Notaries based on how records are kept in a Notary journal. Consequently a journal with multiple cross-outs or otherwise illegible “chicken scratches,” or one that is sloppy or too disorganized to easily navigate, could readily be considered evidence of poor recordkeeping and therefore lose its value in protecting the Notary in a court of law. To retain its value, make sure your journal entries are legible, organized, and ordered consecutively by date, allowing for easy access — even years down the line.
You may know that you should never offer legal advice to your clients, but remember that simply explaining documents to signers or advising them on which type of notarial act they require is crossing the line into legal advice. If signers have questions or need advice, they should contact the agency from which the documents originated, or the court or office where they are intended to go.
Incomplete or Incorrectly Completed Certificates:
Whether it’s a missing venue on the Notary certificate, an illegible or smudged Notary seal, or a case of mismatching document signatures, incomplete or incorrect certificates can render a notarization invalid. In fact, courts have invalidated mortgages because the Notary forgot to put the name of the person signing the mortgage in the acknowledgment. A rejected notarization can, in turn, cause potentially costly delays for your signers, which could result in a lawsuit against you. It’s worth your effort and time to carefully review every document for clarity, thoroughness and accuracy.
Pursuing Borrower for Payment:
For Notary Signing Agents, the waiting game for payment can cause serious frustration — but going directly after the borrower can result in even more serious trouble for the NSA. All payment inquiries should be directed toward the contracting company that hired you, never the borrower, who, chances are, has already paid for the service as part of the loan fees.
Kelle Clarke is a Contributing Editor with the National Notary Association.