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[Published July 7, 2020]

[Last updated July 21, 2020]

Remote online notarization (RON) is the final frontier toward fully-digital real estate closings. One of the primary barriers impeding RON adoption is a lack of RON legislation in some states.

In the past year before the COVID-19 pandemic, RON legislation accelerated at a promising rate; however, many states were still holding back. Starting in late March (at the onset of local COVID-19 shutdowns) however, dozens of states enacted orders to temporarily enable remote notarizations. 

The pandemic exposed an urgent need for contactless closing options and jumpstarted legislative action. In the past 3 months alone, RON legislation and remote notarization orders have accelerated at record speed. 

Before the coronavirus: which states had passed RON legislation? 

A number of states passed RON legislation before the pandemic. (*In one state [see below] the law was a limited version of RON.) In some of these states, RON legislation had been passed but not yet put into effect. The coronavirus pushed the majority of these states to put the legislation into effect immediately. 

Additionally certain states with existing RON legislation issued temporary guidance during COVID-19 to allow for alternative remote signing options such as remote ink-signed notarization (RIN).

  1. Arizona passed RON legislation which went into effect July 1, 2020. 
  2. Florida passed RON legislation which went into effect January 1, 2020. Portions of this legislation went into effect later (execution of wills and estate planning documents went into effect July 1, 2020). 
  3. Idaho enacted RON which went into effect January 1, 2020.
  4. Indiana adopted RON which became effective July 1, 2019. The rules for RON were set to go into effect July 1, 2020; however, due to the coronavirus, Indiana officials took emergency action to make the rules effective March 31, 2020. 
  5. Iowa passed RON legislation in 2019 which went into effect July 1, 2020. During the pandemic (March 2020) the governor issued emergency orders to allow for immediate RON implementation. 
  6. Kentucky passed RON legislation in 2019 which went into effect January 1, 2020. During COVID-19, Kentucky enacted temporary legislation which allowed for RIN. 
  7. Maryland passed a RON bill in April 2019 which is scheduled to go into effect October 2020. In March 2020 the governor issued an emergency order temporarily allowing remote notarization ahead of the October start date. 
  8. Michigan passed RON effective September 2018. In June 2020, the governor issued an executive order allowing for RIN.
  9. Minnesota passed RON legislation effective January 1, 2019.
  10. Montana enacted RON effective May 4, 2015. During the coronavirus (April 2020) the Montana Secretary of State enabled emergency rules allowing for greater flexibility with the appearance of a notarial stamp for RON transactions. 
  11. Nebraska passed RON legislation in May 2019 which was slated to go into effect later this year. In April 2020 the governor issued an emergency rule allowing for the early adoption of RON.
  12. Nevada enacted RON effective July 1, 2018.
  13. North Dakota enacted RON effective March 8, 2019.
  14. Ohio enacted RON effective September 18, 2019.
  15. Oklahoma enacted RON effective January 1, 2020.
  16. South Dakota* enacted a limited version of remote notarizations effective March 18, 2019. The state limits remote notarizations to paper documents and notaries may only identify remote signers through personal knowledge. (*This law was enacted a year before the term “RIN” emerged and is more closely related to RIN than RON.) 
  17. Tennessee enacted RON effective July 1, 2019. During the pandemic (April 2020) the Tennessee Governor issued an executive order expanding the use of RON.
  18. Texas enacted RON effective July 1, 2018. During COVID-19 (April 2020), the governor issued an executive order allowing for greater flexibility for remote signings. This order expired June 30, 2020.
  19. Utah enacted RON effective November 1, 2019.
  20. Vermont enacted its RON law effective July 1, 2019; however, RON is not yet implemented because the Secretary of State has not issued guidelines. During the pandemic, the Vermont Secretary of State issued emergency rules allowing for RIN under certain restrictions. 
  21. Virginia enacted RON effective July 1, 2011. Virginia was the first state to pass RON legislation. 
  22. Washington passed RON legislation in April 2019 which was slated to go into effect October 1, 2020. During the pandemic (March 2020), the governor issued a proclamation making RON effective immediately for the duration of COVID-19. 
  23. Wisconsin passed RON legislation at the beginning of March 2020. RON was scheduled to go into effect May 1, 2020; however, in March 2020, the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions issued emergency guidance to allow for the immediate use of RON. 

States that pushed new RON legislation into effect during COVID 

During the coronavirus pandemic, select states responded to the need for contactless closings with permanent RON legislation. These states worked at record-speed to draft and pass legislation. 

  1. Alaska: on April 10, 2020, Alaska enacted a bill which allows RON for will testator and witnesses. On April 30, 2020, Alaska enacted an additional bill enabling remote online notarization in the state effective January 2021.
  2. Colorado: in late March 2020, the governor issued an executive order temporarily suspending the requirement to appear personally before notarial officers to perform notarizations. In June 2020, Colorado passed a bill that allows for RON. The law will go into effect December 31, 2020. 
  3. Hawaii: in late March 2020, the governor issued an order temporarily allowing for RIN. In July, the state passed a bill allowing for RON which will go into effect January 2021.
  4. Louisiana: the governor issued an emergency order allowing for RON in late March, 2020. In June 2020, the state enacted legislation to implement RON in the state no later than the enactment of the SECURE Notarization act or August 1, 2020. If the SECURE Notarization Act is not enacted prior to February 2022, Louisiana’s RON legislation will become effective on February 1, 2022. Note: This order does not allow RON for real estate transactions involving mortgages.
  5. Missouri passed RON legislation in May 2020. The bill is set to go into effect on August 28, 2020. In April 2020, the governor issued an order authorizing RIN and RON temporarily with guidance from the secretary of state.

Temporary emergency orders enabling remote notarizations

Nearly half of the United States has not yet enacted RON legislation. Many of these states responded to the need for contactless transactions with temporary orders enabling remote ink-signed notarizations (RIN) and RON for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. Alabama: since the onset of the pandemic, the governor has issued multiple proclamations enabling remote notarizations. 
  2. Arkansas: in late March 2020, the governor issued an executive order suspending certain provisions of Arkansas notarial laws to allow remote notarizations. 
  3. Connecticut: in late March 2020, the governor issued an order authorizing RIN with some restrictions. 
  4. Delaware: in April 2020, the governor issued a modification to the original emergency orders enabling remote notarizations. 
  5. Georgia: in late March 2020 the governor of Georgia issued an executive order allowing remote notarizations under certain conditions.
  6. Illinois: in late March 2020, the governor issued an order waiving the in-person requirement for notarizations. 
  7. Kansas: in early April 2020, the governor issued an order temporarily allowing remote notarizations under certain conditions.
  8. Maine: in early April 2020, the governor issued an order to temporarily enable RIN with certain rules.
  9. Massachusetts: in late April 2020, Massachusetts enacted an order authorizing notaries to perform remote notarizations during the state-of-emergency. 
  10. Mississippi: in early April 2020, the governor issued an order temporarily suspending the in-person requirement for notarizations for the duration of the pandemic plus 14 days. 
  11. New Hampshire: in late March 2020, the governor issued an emergency order authorizing RIN. 
  12. New Jersey: in April 2020, New Jersey enacted an emergency order enabling remote notarizations in the state for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  13. New Mexico: in late March 2020, the governor issued an order allowing for RIN with certain restrictions. 
  14. New York: in late March 2020, the governor issued an order immediately authorizing notarial acts to be performed utilizing audio-visual technology under certain conditions. Later, the Secretary of State issued updated guidance allowing electronic signatures for the signers.
  15. North Carolina: in May 2020, North Carolina enacted a bill allowing notaries to perform RIN under certain restrictions. 
  16. Oregon: in July 2020, Oregon passed a bill temporarily allowing RON.
  17. Pennsylvania: in April 2020, Pennsylvania enacted a bill to enable RIN and RON. 
  18. Rhode Island: in April 2020, the state authorized temporary use of RON
  19. West Virginia: in late March 2020, the governor issued an order suspending the in-person requirement for notarizations. Later, the secretary of state adopted emergency rules for RON under certain conditions. 
  20. Wyoming: in late March 2020, the Wyoming Secretary of State issued guidance allowing RON.

States without RON legislation or temporary executive orders 

Only a handful of states have maintained a requirement for in-person notarizations before and during the pandemic. 

  1. California has not passed any RON legislation to date. The state has also not issued any emergency orders to enable RON temporarily. 
  2. South Carolina has no RON or temporary RON or RIN enactment to date. 

What’s ahead after the pandemic? 

The pandemic pushed RON into the spotlight. What remains to be seen is whether there will be a continued push toward more permanent solutions.

 While the pandemic exposed the need for remote closings, consumer preferences for contactless options will likely not go away any time soon. Title & escrow companies can invest in RON technology to ensure they’re prepared for increasing demand. 

To learn more about Qualia’s solutions to enable remote closings, click below to schedule a time with a Qualia Specialist.

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