Chapter 64, Laws of 2013

63rd Legislature
2013 Regular Session



Passed by the House February 25, 2013
  Yeas 92   Nays 0

Speaker of the House of Representatives

Passed by the Senate April 12, 2013
  Yeas 46   Nays 0

President of the Senate

I, Barbara Baker, Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives of the State of Washington, do hereby certify that the attached is SUBSTITUTE HOUSE BILL 1034 as passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate on the dates hereon set forth.

Chief Clerk
Approved April 25, 2013, 1:40 p.m.

Governor of the State of Washington
April 25, 2013

Secretary of State
State of Washington



Passed Legislature - 2013 Regular Session
State of Washington63rd Legislature2013 Regular Session

By House Business & Financial Services (originally sponsored by Representatives Kirby and Ryu)

READ FIRST TIME 01/18/13.   

     AN ACT Relating to the licensing of escrow agents; and amending RCW 18.44.011, 31.04.025, 18.44.457, and 18.44.201.


Sec. 1   RCW 18.44.011 and 2011 1st sp.s. c 21 s 45 are each amended to read as follows:
     The definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter unless the context clearly requires otherwise.
     (1) "Committee" means the escrow advisory committee of the state of Washington created by RCW 18.44.500.
     (2) "Controlling person" is any person who owns or controls ten percent or more of the beneficial ownership of any escrow agent, regardless of the form of business organization employed and regardless of whether such interest stands in such person's true name or in the name of a nominee.
     (3) "Department" means the department of financial institutions.
     (4) "Designated escrow officer" means any licensed escrow officer designated by a licensed escrow agent and approved by the director as the licensed escrow officer responsible for supervising that agent's handling of escrow transactions, management of the agent's trust account, and supervision of all other licensed escrow officers employed by the agent.
     (5) "Director" means the director of financial institutions, or his or her duly authorized representative.
     (6) "Director of licensing" means the director of the department of licensing, or his or her duly authorized representative.
     (7) "Escrow" means any transaction, except the acts of a qualified intermediary in facilitating an exchange under section 1031 of the internal revenue code, wherein any person or persons, for the purpose of effecting and closing the sale, purchase, exchange, transfer, encumbrance, or lease of real or personal property to another person or persons, delivers any written instrument, money, evidence of title to real or personal property, or other thing of value to a third person to be held by such third person until the happening of a specified event or the performance of a prescribed condition or conditions, when it is then to be delivered by such third person, in compliance with instructions under which he or she is to act, to a grantee, grantor, promisee, promisor, obligee, obligor, lessee, lessor, bailee, bailor, or any agent or employee thereof. "Escrow" includes the collection and processing of payments and the performance of related services by a third party on seller-financed loans secured by a lien on real or personal property but excludes vessel transfers.
     (8) "Escrow agent" means any person engaged in the business of performing for compensation the duties of the third person referred to in subsection (7) of this section.
     (9) "Licensed escrow agent" means any sole proprietorship, firm, association, partnership, or corporation holding a license as an escrow agent under the provisions of this chapter.
     (10) "Licensed escrow officer" means any natural person handling escrow transactions and licensed as such by the director.
     (11) "Person" means a natural person, firm, association, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, or the plural thereof, whether resident, nonresident, citizen, or not.
     (12) "Split escrow" means a transaction in which two or more escrow agents act to effect and close an escrow transaction.

Sec. 2   RCW 31.04.025 and 2012 c 17 s 1 are each amended to read as follows:
     (1) Each loan made to a resident of this state by a licensee, or persons subject to this chapter, is subject to the authority and restrictions of this chapter, unless such loan is made under the authority of chapter 63.14 RCW.
     (2) This chapter does not apply to the following:
     (a) Any person doing business under, and as permitted by, any law of this state or of the United States relating to banks, savings banks, trust companies, savings and loan or building and loan associations, or credit unions;
     (b) Entities making loans under chapter 19.60 RCW (pawnbroking);
     (c) Entities conducting transactions under chapter 63.14 RCW (retail installment sales of goods and services), unless the goods being sold in a retail installment sale consist of open loop prepaid access (prepaid access as defined in 31 C.F.R. Part 1010.100(ww) and not closed loop prepaid access as defined in 31 C.F.R. Part 1010.100(kkk));
     (d) Entities making loans under chapter 31.45 RCW (check cashers and sellers);
     (e) Any person making a loan primarily for business, commercial, or agricultural purposes unless the loan is secured by a lien on the borrower's primary residence;
     (f) Any person making loans made to government or government agencies or instrumentalities or making loans to organizations as defined in the federal truth in lending act;
     (g) Entities making loans under chapter 43.185 RCW (housing trust fund);
     (h) Entities making loans under programs of the United States department of agriculture, department of housing and urban development, or other federal government program that provides funding or access to funding for single-family housing developments or grants to low-income individuals for the purchase or repair of single-family housing;
     (i) Nonprofit housing organizations making loans, or loans made, under housing programs that are funded in whole or in part by federal or state programs if the primary purpose of the programs is to assist low-income borrowers with purchasing or repairing housing or the development of housing for low-income Washington state residents; ((and))
     (j) Entities making loans which are not residential mortgage loans under a credit card plan; ((and))
     (k) Individuals employed by a licensed residential loan servicing company, unless so required by federal law or regulation; and
     (l) Entities licensed under chapter 18.44 RCW that process payments on seller-financed loans secured by liens on real or personal property
     (3) The director may, at his or her discretion, waive applicability of the consumer loan company licensing provisions of this chapter to other persons, not including individuals subject to the S.A.F.E. act, making or servicing loans when the director determines it necessary to facilitate commerce and protect consumers. The director may adopt rules interpreting this section.

Sec. 3   RCW 18.44.457 and 2010 c 34 s 12 are each amended to read as follows:
     (1) During the time that the director retains possession of the property and business of a licensee, the director has the power and authority to conduct the licensee's business and take any action on behalf of the licensee ((that the licensee could lawfully take on its own behalf)) to protect consumers, including but not limited to discontinuing any violations and unsafe or injurious practices, making good any deficiencies, and making claims against the licensee's fidelity bond, errors and omissions bond, or surety bond on behalf of the company.
     (2) The director, the department, and its employees are not subject to liability for actions under this section and RCW 18.44.455 and no moneys from the department's fund may be required to be expended on behalf of the licensee or the licensee's clients, creditors, employees, shareholders, members, investors, or any other party or entity.

Sec. 4   RCW 18.44.201 and 2010 c 34 s 7 are each amended to read as follows:
     (1) At the time of filing an application for an escrow agent license, or any renewal or reinstatement of an escrow agent license, the applicant shall provide satisfactory evidence to the director of having obtained the following as evidence of financial responsibility:
     (a) A fidelity bond providing coverage in the aggregate amount of ((two hundred thousand)) one million dollars with a deductible no greater than ten thousand dollars covering each corporate officer, partner, escrow officer, and employee of the applicant engaged in escrow transactions;
     (b) An errors and omissions policy issued to the escrow agent providing coverage in the minimum aggregate amount of fifty thousand dollars or, alternatively, cash or securities in the principal amount of fifty thousand dollars deposited in an approved depository on condition that they be available for payment of any claim payable under an equivalent errors and omissions policy in that amount and pursuant to rules and regulations adopted by the department for that purpose; and
     (c) A surety bond in the amount of ten thousand dollars executed by the applicant as obligor and by a surety company authorized to do a surety business in this state as surety, unless the fidelity bond obtained by the licensee to satisfy the requirement in (a) of this subsection does not have a deductible. The bond shall run to the state of Washington as obligee, and shall run to the benefit of the state and any person or persons who suffer loss by reason of the applicant's or its employee's violation of this chapter. The bond shall be conditioned that the obligor as licensee will faithfully conform to and abide by this chapter and all rules adopted under this chapter, and shall reimburse all persons who suffer loss by reason of a violation of this chapter or rules adopted under this chapter. The bond shall be continuous and may be canceled by the surety upon the surety giving written notice to the director of its intent to cancel the bond. The cancellation shall be effective thirty days after the notice is received by the director. Whether or not the bond is renewed, continued, reinstated, reissued, or otherwise extended, replaced, or modified, including increases or decreases in the penal sum, it shall be considered one continuous obligation, and the surety upon the bond shall not be liable in an aggregate amount exceeding the penal sum set forth on the face of the bond. In no event shall the penal sum, or any portion thereof, at two or more points in time be added together in determining the surety's liability. The bond shall not be liable for any penalties imposed on the licensee, including but not limited to, any increased damages or attorneys' fees, or both, awarded under RCW 19.86.090.
     (2) For the purposes of this section, a "fidelity bond" shall mean a primary commercial blanket bond or its equivalent satisfactory to the director and written by an insurer authorized to transact this line of business in the state of Washington. Such bond shall provide fidelity coverage for any fraudulent or dishonest acts committed by any one or more of the corporate officers, partners, sole practitioners, escrow officers, and employees of the applicant engaged in escrow transactions acting alone or in collusion with others. This bond shall be for the sole benefit of the escrow agent and under no circumstances whatsoever shall the bonding company be liable under the bond to any other party unless the corporate officer, partner, or sole practitioner commits a fraudulent or dishonest act, in which case, the bond shall be for the benefit of the harmed consumer. The bond shall name the escrow agent as obligee and shall protect the obligee against the loss of money or other real or personal property belonging to the obligee, or in which the obligee has a pecuniary interest, or for which the obligee is legally liable or held by the obligee in any capacity, whether the obligee is legally liable therefor or not. An escrow agent's bond must be maintained until all accounts have been reconciled and the escrow trust account balance is zero. The bond may be canceled by the insurer upon delivery of thirty days' written notice to the director and to the escrow agent. In the event that the fidelity bond required under this subsection is not reasonably available, the director may adopt rules to implement a surety bond requirement.
     (3) For the purposes of this section, an "errors and omissions policy" shall mean a group or individual insurance policy satisfactory to the director and issued by an insurer authorized to transact insurance business in the state of Washington. Such policy shall provide coverage for unintentional errors and omissions of the escrow agent and its employees, and may be canceled by the insurer upon delivery of thirty days' written notice to the director and to the escrow agent.
     (4) Except as provided in RCW 18.44.221, the fidelity bond, surety bond, and the errors and omissions policy required by this section shall be kept in full force and effect as a condition precedent to the escrow agent's authority to transact escrow business in this state, and the escrow agent shall supply the director with satisfactory evidence thereof upon request.

         Passed by the House February 25, 2013.
         Passed by the Senate April 12, 2013.
         Approved by the Governor April 25, 2013.
         Filed in Office of Secretary of State April 25, 2013.