Frequently Asked Questions about the Agency Data Call
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We know that there are many questions about the Data Call. Find answers and ask questions here!
If you are looking for answers to your Data Call questions, please REVIEW the questions and answers below. If you don't find the answer you need, you can submit your question(s) by selecting the underlined link next to the related line number from the Data Call report. We'll post answers based on the knowledge we have gained over the two plus years of working with the Office of Insurance Regulation in developing the Data Call. Please be patient. There are only a few SMEs (subject matter experts) for this topic and it does take time to research and properly answer these questions. We will post answers as quickly as possible.
Please note the following abbreviations used in the FAQ section:
The Office of Insurance Regulation (“OIR”)
1. Do they really want four years of past data? Where will I get this? A: The OIR is aware that submitting all the required data for the 4 years prior to 2014 may be difficult. For this reason, the OIR is asking that you do the best you can, using information which is readily available or which can be reasonably estimated from accounting records, computerized closing systems, and tax returns. For example, certain lines on the Data Call report correspond with lines on IRS form 1120, and those corresponding lines are listed as the minimum information required in the “Comments” section of “General Information” on page 1 of the main report.
2. Should we include the prior four years of data at the same time we submit the 2014 report? A: Yes. OIR requests that, in 2015, you submit five reports - one for each year from 2010 through 2014. Again, it is understood that data has not been collected over the four years prior to 2014 (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013), so do the best you can, while following the instructions for the minimum amount of information required, which are listed in the “Comments” section of “General Information” on page 1 of the main report.
Going forward, as suggested by industry advisors, you will be asked to reconfirm, and, if necessary, update your prior five years’ data. Therefore, in 2016, you will submit data for 2015 and you will be asked to reconfirm the data submitted for the prior five years (2010-2014). You will also be asked to indicate any changes to your data.
1. If we have two offices and one operates as corporate and one as a DBA, should we submit two reports? A: The controlling factor is the Florida DFS license number. Data Call reports are required from every licensed title insurance agency in Florida, including those agencies which are operated by attorneys, as well as retail offices of direct-writing underwriters' offices located in Florida. If a licensed agency has multiple branch locations, the data from all locations are to be included with that of the respective main office/corporate office filing.2. If an agent went out of business in 2014, are they required to comply with the Data Call, due May 31, 2015? A: Yes. If they conducted business during any part of 2014, they are required to comply.
3. If an agent goes out of business in 2015, prior to May 31, are they required to comply with the Data Call A: Yes. Not only are they required to provide their 2014 data by May 31, 2015, they are also required to provide the data for any portion of 2015 during which they were still in business for the Data Call due May 31, 2016.
1. In Line 19, what are they asking for when they request “Affiliated Business Names”? A: They would like names of both individuals and company names which are connected to the title insurance agency by ownership interests, such as: John Smith at ABC Builders.
1. Line 37(a) asks for the number of Line 32 that were not sale/purchase closing transactions. Does this include leasehold policies which insure the "purchaser" of the leasehold A: Line 37(a) should include leasehold owners' policies, which will again be included in Line 37(d). In this Data Call, leasehold transactions are included in "non sale/purchase closing transactions".
2. Line 37(a) asks for the number of transactions that were not sale/purchase transactions. How do we characterize a sale transaction in which we are insuring only the lender's interest? i.e. The purchaser declines owners coverages or has acquired it from another source simultaneously (both pretty rare). A: This seems to describe a loan policy issued as part of a sale transaction, which should be included with all transactions listed in Line 32.
3. Line 37(c) asks for the number of Leasehold Transactions included in 37(a). Is this intended to reflect only policies insuring a lender to a leasehold, or policies in which we insure the person leasing a property? A: Line 37(c) should reflect all leasehold-owners and loan policies.
1. Does line 39 "Premium Written" include endorsements? A: Yes, as does the entry on Schedule C.
2. What does Line 48 “Rebate Amounts” include A: Line 48 refers to “Butler” type rebates for which the consumer (premium payer) receives a refund of a portion of the title premium, paid from the agent's share of the title premium. Agents are to reflect the total amount of "Butler" Rebates given to consumers for the reporting period in this section.
1. What are they getting at in lines 60, 61 (a)-(b) and 62? A: In these four lines, the OIR is attempting to get a better understanding of the costs incurred by agents in producing or acquiring their title information. If you maintain your own plant or “rent” access to a plant, line 60 is intended to pick up the non-labor costs of running that plant. (Labor costs should be reflected in the various categories of Lines 50 [Employee Compensation] and 55 [Employee Benefits] on Schedule B.)
We understand that many title agencies purchase searches and access from other parties, including, for example, reQuire and Reliable Lien Search, Inc.. These fees should be reflected in Line 61a (Abstract/search expenditures with third parties), since it is a search which does not contain requirements. Some agencies acquire what amounts to an old fashioned abstract, a list of the documents in the chain, and copies of those instruments. Other searches also include suggested requirements and/or exceptions, based on the searcher’s review/examination of the documents. We need to better understand how this difference in business models affects the costs of operating an agency, and that is the distinction being drawn.
2. What is the difference between lines 61 (“search”) and 62 (“examination”)? A: The difference can be found in Fla. Stat. § 627.7711. Fla. Stat. § 627.7711(d) defines the search narrowly: “’Title search’ means the compiling of title information from official or public records.” The verb in this definition is “compiling” and the records compiled in a search are only from official or public records.
The cost of the examination of the documents compiled in the search is found in Fla. Stat. § 627.7711(b), under the definition of "Primary title services", where it refers to an "evaluation of a reasonable title search".
Although some in the industry refer to the search and examination interchangeably, and while it is true that some states (Texas, for example) define “examination” to include the search, Florida Statutes narrowly define the term “search”.
It is understood that, during the search, decisions are made as to which documents are relevant and which are not, and that such decisions might be considered an examination. This on-the-spot decision making as to which documents to include in the compilation should be included within the definition of “search”.
So, Line 61 deals with two types of payments: part a) encompasses payments for searches where the agency receives only the documents compiled by the search; and part b) encompasses payments for searches where the agency receives the type of search reflected in a) AND suggested exceptions and requirements for the commitment (sometimes referred to as a “pro-forma commitment”).
Line 62 deals with payments to third parties who examine a search done either by the agency or by another third party.
3. Where do we reflect fees that a title agency may pay to outside companies and/or local and community municipalities for search services in connection with matters such as utility liens, city/county assessments or Mortgage and Lien Release searches? A: These charges will be reflected on Line 61(a)-Abstract/Search Expenditures with Third Parties.
4. What should be included in Line 68 "Business Legal"? Does that include the costs for the lawyer we have on staff who assists in closings, escrow questions and functions as our general counsel? A: Many Florida agencies are attorney-owned or have an attorney involved on a more or less full time basis. The payments to lawyers who are an integral part of your business should be reflected in the various categories of Lines 50 (Employee compensation) and 55 (Employee benefits).
This category is intended to reflect the cost of obtaining outside legal counsel for corporate, business, HR and other matters not directly related to defending a title or closing claim.
Costs incurred in defending a specific closing or title claim should be reflected in Line 87.
5. What portion of my FLTA and ALTA membership and attendance at programs may I allocate to Line 73 "Employee and Owner Education"?A: While many of you joined FLTA because “All title agents should belong to FLTA--it’s the right thing to do for the industry!” it is likely that you also joined the association for the value it provides to your business. A substantial portion of that value is from our formal and informal education programs, including for-credit webinars and continuing education programs offered at the convention and zone meetings, and the regular flow of the latest information about changes in the law, current cases, regulatory interpretations and other informal education.
Based on that, we think it is appropriate for an agency to allocate 50% of its membership dues and 50% of the cost of attending FLTA/ALTA and similar conventions as an educational expense.
Note the travel and lodging relating to attending educational and other programs are not included here, but are separately reported on Line 72.
1. Do I really need to allocate the time devoted to each of those categories shown on Schedule B? I'll spend more time figuring out how to report the time spent on "Fissionable Materials" than we actually spent doing the evaluation! A: Specify annual hours spent on each item designated by the Roman numerals, and the unique hourly cost per item. Alternatively, you could estimate percentages of time spent on each item.
The subcategories designated by letters or Arabic numerals are for illustration only. Their hourly costs, or percentages of time spent on those items, do not need to be recorded. That said, that information would be quite helpful to OIR in determining agency costs, so feel free to include it.
2. When reporting on Schedule B, are we to show the base salary or the fully loaded labor cost A: All expenses should be included in the cost of the time spent on an activity. We understand that this is different than the way these figures are presented in the Main Data Call (Lines 50-55), where the employer's share of employee benefits, social security, unemployment, Medicare, and state taxes are reported separately from employee income.
3. The job tasks of certain people in my office don't fit into these categories. The accountant, the receptionist, the janitor and even managers aren't directly involved in the day-to-day of Search, Exam, etc. How should their labor costs be allocated on Schedule B? A: Employees who don't devote a substantial portion of their working time to tasks which fall into one of the Schedule B categories (this may include receptionists, cleaning staff, accounting personnel, managers, human resources staff and other similar support functions) should not be included in the Schedule B allocations. Their costs are picked up on the Report Lines. However, should a manager or other employee who normally does not do the actual work addressed in Schedule B sometimes do the work, then that occasional time and cost should be included in Schedule B. The point is, they should actually perform the work to be counted, not just supervise it.
4. Must we keep an itemization for the breakdown of Schedule B as backup? A: It's definitely a good idea! Agents who have used time slips to manually record information found that itemized data was helpful in allotting correct information as to closing activities, core title activities and activities the OIR uses to set fair and accurate rates. It is often difficult to separate those activities, but, again, it is very important that we provide the OIR with the most detailed and accurate information concerning the time and costs agents spend in providing title insurance to their customers.
The OIR is aware (and even states in the current directions for the Data Call) that a portion of the reported information may be determined by reasonable good-faith estimates made in accordance with the instructions to the data submittal form, but, of course, we'll receive better results with actual numbers. Plus, it may be helpful to implement such data collecting strategies now, as we at FLTA would not be surprised if future Data Call submissions require concrete numbers.
Finally, you are probably already keeping some of this information, in keeping with Fla. Stat. § 627.7845(2), which states, in part, that "the title insurer shall cause the evidence of the determination of insurability and the reasonable title search or search of the records of a Uniform Commercial Code filing office to be preserved and retained in its files or in the files of its insurance agent or agency for a period of not less than 7 years after the title insurance commitment, title insurance policy, or guarantee of title was issued. The title insurer or agent or agency must produce the evidence required to be maintained by this subsection at its offices upon the demand of the office." Examples of that information include HUD forms, determination of insurance, substitution and reissue rates and records of requirements for incorporating exceptions.
5. Where should I allocate time:
-----when I call the underwriter for advice on a title matter?
-----when discussing with closing officer questions relative to commitment matters?
------when reviewing with a consumer a specific requirement on the title commitment which must be addressed or resolved at closing, such as issues relating to restrictions on road maintenance agreements or easements?
-----to review the trust?
-----to update the title commitment?
-----to complete the form to request a title update (updating the commitment prior to closing) and emailing the closing officer?
-----to make copies of B2 Exceptions on the commitment for the consumer?
-----to compose and send letter or to phone parties to acknowledge receipt of a new order?
-----when working on a canceled file (making sure that I have a zero ledger in the file; returning all original documents to the customers, such as original death certificates and owners policies)?
-----for pulling copies of documents to be examined?
Question 1: Are premiums for endorsements shown on Schedule C and, if so, how? A: Yes, the "Total Premium" includes the total premium for the applicable policy and any endorsements to the policy. Include endorsements on line 39 on the report.
Question 2: If a loan policy insuring a first mortgage is endorsed to insure a mortgage modification which triggers substitution loan rates, how is the premium for the endorsement reported? A: In the section labeled First Mortgage Loan Policy, insert the total premium in the Total Premium column on the row for the appropriate policy liability tier.
Example: A loan policy in the amount of $1 million contained a Form 9 endorsement. Within 3 years, while the unpaid balance was still $1 million, the policy was endorsed to insure a modification that triggered substitution loan rates and the coverage of the Form 9 endorsement was extended to the modification. The total premium for the endorsement would be $1,674.75. $1,674.75 should be inserted in the Total Premium column on the row for policy limits of 1,000,001 - 5,000,000.
Question 3: If a loan policy insuring a first mortgage is endorsed to insure a future advance, how is the premium for the endorsement reported? A: In the section labeled First Mortgage Loan Policy, insert the total premium in the Total Premium column on the row for the appropriate policy liability tier.
Example: A loan policy in the amount of $1 million contained a Form 9 endorsement. The policy was endorsed to insure a future advance of $100,000 and the coverage of the Form 9 endorsement was extended to the future advance. The total premium for the endorsement would be $275. $275 should be inserted in the Total Premium column on the row for policy limits of 1,000,001 - 5,000,000.
Question 4: On the Simo tab. Do you want us to consider endorsement premium as well for the Simo loan policy when choosing how many simo policies at each tier or just the policy charge? A: The Simo Section should include the simo policy premium without endorsements. The simo premium with endorsements should be included under 1st mortgage loan policies at the top of the page.
Question 1: Who must submit Data Call information? A: Florida licensed agencies, retail offices of direct writers, non-resident title agencies with Florida licenses, and title insurers authorized to do business in Florida. Lawyers (and law firms) who own title agency and/or operate under a DFS license should report for the licensed agency. Attorneys and law firms which are not DFS licensed are not required to report.
Question 2: Why are non-agent attorneys who transact real estate not required to report? A: There a few reasons: First, Fla. Stat. § 627.782(8)limits the applicability of the Data Call to licensed title insurance agencies, and the OIR is required to carry out the law as written. Any questions about the wisdom of legislators should be addressed to legislators.
Secondly, we knew that the lawyers’ information would skew the results because, almost always, their title work is so intertwined with their law business that would be very difficult to separate all the costs. For example, an attorney may consider that he or she was already paying for the office, the copier, phones and electricity, and so decide that the cost of providing title services was half a paralegal and a few Fed-Exes. Alternatively, an attorney may divide all their expenses by all their revenue, including the costs of the very well compensated partners.
Therefore, it was determined that it was better to set rates on the relatively pure business numbers of licensed title agents.
Question 3: How will we know that the Office of Insurance Regulation received the reports we submit in 2015 and beyond? A: The OIR will send a confirmation.
Question 4: How do I contact the OIR and the DFS? A: All Data Call questions may be directed to Peter Rice, Title Insurance Coordinator at OIR ( email@example.com) 850-413-5249).
DFS maintains an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for questions, and any inquiries regarding the Data Call will be passed along to the OIR. An official site for Data Call questions will be established.
FLTA has also established a link to its Data Call FAQs page (FLTA Data Call FAQs).
Question 5: How was the Data Call exempted from the public information “Sunshine” law? A: Please see Fla. Stat. § 626.84195.
Question 6: Has the exemption been tested in the courts? A: No.
Question 7: What assurance can you provide to protect this information if tested and overruled in the courts? A: We at FLTA consider it unlikely that the statute will be challenged, and even less likely that, if challenged, it will be overturned.
Question 8: Where do we show estoppel fees? A: Show estoppel fees on line 81 in the main report. Also, on Schedule B, under Category IIIG, show the time expended on estoppel fees. Basically, the goal is to properly show the volume and amounts of those fees. So, on Line 81, show the total number of estoppels requested and the total fees paid for those estoppels, such as "25 estoppels costing $10,000".
Question 9: What happens if the filing is late, incomplete, or inaccurate? A: The filings will be referred to DFS’s Agency Investigations or OIR’s Market Investigations units for enforcement action. Incomplete and inaccurate reporting may also be referred. During the review process data is validated and filers may be alerted to potential errors. Filers will be provided an opportunity to quickly correct errors, but they must include explanations for all changes to data. Specific statutory citations exist in the Underwriter and Agency FAQs sections near the end of this document.