Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 55.1. Property and Conveyances
Subtitle II. Real Estate Settlements and Recordation
Chapter 10. Real Estate Settlement Agents
11/29/2022

Chapter 10. Real Estate Settlement Agents.

§ 55.1-1000. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Association" means the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

"Closing disclosure" means the combined mortgage loan disclosure statement of final loan terms and closing costs prescribed under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 (RESPA)(12 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Regulation X (12 C.F.R. Part 1024) and Regulation Z (12 C.F.R. Part 1026).

"Commission" means the State Corporation Commission.

"Escrow" means written instruments, money, or other items deposited by a party with a settlement agent for delivery to other persons upon the performance of specified conditions or the happening of a certain event.

"Escrow, closing, or settlement services" means the administrative and clerical services required to carry out the terms of contracts affecting real estate. These services include placing orders for title insurance, receiving and issuing receipts for money received from the parties, ordering loan checks and payoffs, ordering surveys and inspections, preparing settlement statements or closing disclosures, determining that all closing documents conform to the parties' contract requirements, setting the closing appointment, following up with the parties to ensure that the transaction progresses to closing, ascertaining that the lenders' instructions have been satisfied, conducting a closing conference at which the documents are executed, receiving and disbursing funds, completing form documents and instruments selected by and in accordance with instructions of the parties to the transaction, handling or arranging for the recording of documents, sending recorded documents to the lender, sending the recorded deed and the title policy to the buyer, and reporting federal income tax information for the real estate sale to the Internal Revenue Service.

"Lay real estate settlement agent" means a person who (i) is not licensed as an attorney under Chapter 39 (§ 54.1-3900 et seq.) of Title 54.1; (ii) is not a party to the real estate transaction; (iii) provides escrow, closing, or settlement services in connection with a transaction related to any real estate in the Commonwealth; and (iv) is listed as the settlement agent on the settlement statement or closing disclosure for such transaction.

"Licensing authority" means the (i) Commission acting pursuant to this chapter, Title 6.2, Title 12.1, or Title 38.2; (ii) the Virginia State Bar acting pursuant to this chapter or Chapter 39 (§ 54.1-3900 et seq.) of Title 54.1; or (iii) the Real Estate Board acting pursuant to this chapter or Chapter 21 (§ 54.1-2100 et seq.) of Title 54.1.

"Party to the real estate transaction" means, with respect to that real estate transaction, a lender, seller, purchaser, or borrower and, with respect to a corporate purchaser, any entity that is a subsidiary of or under common ownership with that corporate purchaser.

"Settlement agent" means a person, other than a party to the real estate transaction, that provides escrow, closing, or settlement services in connection with a transaction related to real estate in the Commonwealth and that is listed as the settlement agent on the settlement statement or closing disclosure for such transaction. Any person, other than a party to the transaction, who conducts the settlement conference and receives or handles money shall be deemed a "settlement agent" subject to the applicable requirements of this chapter.

"Settlement statement" means the statement of receipts and disbursements for a transaction related to real estate, including a statement prescribed under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 (RESPA)(12 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.), as amended, and the regulations thereunder.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.20; 1998, cc. 69, 598; 1999, c. 647, § 6.1-2.32; 2002, c. 375; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.16; 2016, c. 619; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1001. Limitation on applicability of chapter.

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent a person licensed under Chapter 21 (§ 54.1-2100 et seq.) of Title 54.1, or such licensee's employees or independent contractors, from performing escrow, closing, or settlement services to facilitate the settlement of a transaction in which the licensee is involved without complying with the provisions of this chapter, so long as the licensee, the licensee's employees, or independent contractors are not named as the settlement agent on the settlement statement or closing disclosure and the licensee is otherwise not prohibited from performing such services by law or regulation.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.19; 1998, cc. 69, 162, 736; 1999, c. 647, § 6.1-2.30; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.17; 2016, c. 619; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1002. Scope of chapter; lay real estate settlement agents.

A. Except as provided in subsection B, this chapter applies only to transactions involving the purchase of or lending on the security of real estate located in the Commonwealth containing not more than four residential dwelling units.

B. Notwithstanding any rule of court or other provision of this chapter to the contrary:

1. A lay real estate settlement agent may provide escrow, closing, and settlement services for any real property located within the Commonwealth, and receive compensation for such services, provided that he is registered pursuant to and is in compliance with the provisions of this chapter with the exception of subsection A; and

2. A party to a real estate transaction involving the purchase of or lending on the security of real estate located in the Commonwealth containing more than four residential dwelling units shall have the same authority as a party to a real estate transaction as is provided pursuant to subsection B of § 55.1-1003.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.19; 1998, cc. 69, 162, 736; 1999, c. 647, § 6.1-2.32; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.18; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1003. Persons who may act as a settlement agent.

A. A person shall not act in the capacity of a settlement agent, and a lender, seller, purchaser or borrower may not contract with any person to act in the capacity of a settlement agent, with respect to real estate settlements in the Commonwealth unless the person has not been convicted of a felony, unless such person has had his civil rights restored by the Governor or been granted a writ of actual innocence, and is either:

1. Licensed as an attorney under Chapter 39 (§ 54.1-3900 et seq.) of Title 54.1;

2. Licensed as a title insurance company under Title 38.2;

3. Licensed as a title insurance agent under Title 38.2 and is appointed by a title insurance company licensed in the Commonwealth pursuant to Chapter 18 (§ 38.2-1800 et seq.) of Title 38.2;

4. Licensed as a real estate broker under Chapter 21 (§ 54.1-2100 et seq.) of Title 54.1;

5. A financial institution authorized to do business in the Commonwealth under any of the provisions of Title 6.2 or under federal law; or

6. A subsidiary or affiliate of a financial institution described in subdivision 5.

Any person described in subdivisions 1 through 6 not acting in the capacity of a settlement agent shall not be subject to the provisions of this chapter.

B. Notwithstanding any rule of court to the contrary, a settlement agent operating in compliance with the requirements of this chapter or a party to the real estate transaction may provide escrow, closing, or settlement services and receive compensation for such services.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.21; 1998, c. 69; 2000, c. 549; 2002, c. 464; 2007, c. 898; 2008, c. 92; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.19; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1004. Duties of settlement agents.

A. A settlement agent shall exercise reasonable care and comply with all applicable requirements of this chapter and its licensing authority regarding licensing, financial responsibility, errors and omissions or malpractice insurance policies, fidelity bonds, employee dishonesty insurance policies, audits, escrow account analyses, and record retention.

B. A settlement agent who is not (i) a person described in subdivision A 5 of § 55.1-1003 or (ii) a title insurance company as defined in § 38.2-4601 shall maintain the following to the satisfaction of the appropriate licensing authority:

1. An errors and omissions or malpractice insurance policy providing a minimum of $250,000 in coverage;

2. A blanket fidelity bond or employee dishonesty insurance policy covering persons employed by the settlement agent providing a minimum of $100,000 in coverage. When the settlement agent has no employees except the owners, partners, shareholders, or members, the settlement agent may apply to the appropriate licensing authority for a waiver of this fidelity bond or employee dishonesty requirement; and

3. A surety bond of not less than $200,000.

Notwithstanding the provisions of § 55.1-1016, the Commission may share information collected from a settlement agent or agency under subdivisions 1 and 3 with any party to the real estate transaction in connection with the actions of such agent or agency arising out of a settlement.

C. A settlement agent, other than an attorney or a title insurance company if such company's financial statements are audited annually by an independent certified public accountant, shall, at its expense, have an audit of its escrow accounts conducted by an independent certified public accountant at least once each consecutive 12-month period. The appropriate licensing authority shall require the settlement agent to provide a copy of its audit report to the licensing authority no later than 60 days after the date on which the audit is completed. A settlement agent that is a licensed title insurance agent under Title 38.2 shall also provide a copy of the audit report to each title insurance company that it represents. In lieu of such annual audit, a settlement agent that is licensed as a title insurance agent under Title 38.2 shall allow each title insurance company for which it has an appointment to conduct an analysis of its escrow accounts in accordance with regulations adopted by the Commission or guidelines issued by the Bureau of Insurance of the Commission, as appropriate, at least once each consecutive 12-month period, and each title insurance company conducting such analysis shall submit a copy of its analysis report to the appropriate licensing authority no later than 60 days after the date on which the analysis is completed. With the consent of the title insurance agent, a title insurance company may share the results of its analysis with other title insurance companies that will accept the same in lieu of conducting a separate analysis. A title insurance company shall retain a copy of the analysis or audit report, as applicable, for each title insurance agent it has appointed and such reports and other records of the insurance company's activities as a settlement agent shall be made available to the appropriate licensing authority when examinations are conducted pursuant to provisions in Title 38.2.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.21; 1998, c. 69; 2000, c. 549; 2002, c. 464; 2007, c. 898; 2008, c. 92; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.20; 2019, c. 712; 2021, Sp. Sess. I, c. 324.

§ 55.1-1005. Persons prohibited from assisting or being employed by settlement agents.

A. A person who has been convicted of a felony involving fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation shall not assist a settlement agent in the performance of escrow, closing, or settlement services involving the receipt or disbursement of funds from real estate settlements in the Commonwealth.

B. A settlement agent shall not employ a person who has been convicted of a felony involving fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in an administrative or clerical capacity that involves the receipt or disbursement of funds from real estate settlements in the Commonwealth.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.21; 1998, c. 69; 2000, c. 549; 2002, c. 464; 2007, c. 898; 2008, c. 92; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.21; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1006. Choice of settlement agent.

A purchaser or borrower in a transaction related to real estate in the Commonwealth shall have the right to select the settlement agent to provide escrow, closing, or settlement services in connection with the transaction. The seller in such a transaction may not require the use of a particular settlement agent as a condition of the sale of the property. Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit a seller from retaining an attorney licensed pursuant to Chapter 39 (§ 54.1-3900 et seq.) of Title 54.1 to represent his interests and provide legal advice pertaining to escrow, closing, or settlement services. Such representation may include deed preparation, fee negotiation, and review of applicable documents and advising the seller on any legal matters related to the settlement or closing process.

2009, c. 140, § 6.1-2.21:1; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.22; 2019, c. 712; 2022, cc. 669, 670.

§ 55.1-1007. Disclosure.

All contracts involving the purchase of real estate containing not more than four residential dwelling units shall include in at least 10-point boldface type the following language:

"Choice of Settlement Agent: Chapter 10 (§ 55.1-1000 et seq.) of Title 55.1 of the Code of Virginia provides that the purchaser or borrower has the right to select the settlement agent to handle the closing of this transaction. The settlement agent's role in closing this transaction involves the coordination of numerous administrative and clerical functions relating to the collection of documents and the collection and disbursement of funds required to carry out the terms of the contract between the parties. If part of the purchase price is financed, the lender for the purchaser will instruct the settlement agent as to the signing and recording of loan documents and the disbursement of loan proceeds. No settlement agent can provide legal advice to any party to the transaction except a settlement agent who is engaged in the private practice of law in Virginia and who has been retained or engaged by a party to the transaction for the purpose of providing legal services to that party.

"Variation by agreement: The provisions of Chapter 10 (§ 55.1-1000 et seq.) of Title 55.1 of the Code of Virginia may not be varied by agreement, and rights conferred by this chapter may not be waived. The seller may not require the use of a particular settlement agent as a condition of the sale of the property.

"Escrow, closing, and settlement services guidelines: The Virginia State Bar issues guidelines to help settlement agents avoid and prevent the unauthorized practice of law in connection with furnishing escrow, settlement, or closing services. As a party to a real estate transaction, the purchaser or borrower is entitled to receive a copy of these guidelines from his settlement agent, upon request, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 10 (§ 55.1-1000 et seq.) of Title 55.1 of the Code of Virginia."

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.22; 2009, c. 140; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.23; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1008. Conditions for providing escrow, closing, or settlement services and for maintaining escrow accounts.

A. All funds deposited with the settlement agent in connection with an escrow, settlement, or closing shall be handled in a fiduciary capacity and submitted for collection to or deposited in a separate fiduciary trust account or accounts in a financial institution authorized to do business in the Commonwealth no later than the close of the second business day, in accordance with the following requirements:

1. The funds shall be the property of the person entitled to them under the provisions of the escrow, settlement, or closing agreement and shall be segregated for each depository by escrow, settlement, or closing in the records of the settlement agent in a manner that permits the funds to be identified on an individual basis; and

2. The funds shall be applied only in accordance with the terms of the individual instructions or agreements under which the funds were accepted.

B. Funds held in an escrow account shall be disbursed only pursuant to a written instruction or agreement specifying how and to whom such funds may be disbursed. Funds payable to persons other than the settlement agent shall be disbursed in accordance with § 55.1-903, except:

1. Title insurance premiums payable to title insurers under § 38.2-1813 or to title insurance agents. Such title insurance premiums payable to title insurers and agents may be (i) held in the settlement agent's settlement escrow account, identified and itemized by file name or file number, as a file with a balance; (ii) disbursed in the form of a check drawn upon the settlement escrow account payable to the title insurer or agent but maintained within the settlement file of the settlement agent; or (iii) transferred within two business days into a separate title insurance premium escrow account, which account shall be identified as such and be separate from the business or personal funds of the settlement agent. These transferred title insurance premium funds shall be itemized and identified within the separate title insurance premium escrow account. All title insurance premiums payable to title insurers by title insurance agents serving as settlement agents shall be paid in the ordinary course of business as required by subsection A of § 38.2-1813; and

2. Escrows held by the settlement agent pursuant to written instruction or agreement. A settlement statement or closing disclosure that has been signed by the seller and the purchaser or borrower shall be deemed sufficient to satisfy the requirement of this subsection.

C. A settlement agent may not retain any interest received on funds deposited in connection with any escrow, settlement, or closing. An attorney settlement agent shall maintain escrow accounts in accordance with applicable rules of the Virginia State Bar and the Supreme Court of Virginia.

D. Nothing in this chapter shall be deemed to prohibit the recording of documents prior to the time funds are available for disbursement with respect to a transaction, provided that all parties consent to such recordation.

E. All settlement statements or closing disclosures for transactions related to real estate governed by this chapter shall be in writing and identify, by name and business address, the settlement agent.

F. Nothing in this section is intended to amend, alter, or supersede other sections of this chapter, or the laws of the Commonwealth or the United States, regarding the duties and obligations of the settlement agent in maintaining escrow accounts.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.23; 1998, c. 69; 2001, cc. 316, 512; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.24; 2016, c. 619; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1009. Falsifying settlement statements prohibited.

No settlement agent shall intentionally make any materially false or misleading statement or entry on a settlement statement or closing disclosure. An estimate of charges made in good faith by a settlement agent, and indicated as such on the settlement statement or closing disclosure, shall not be deemed to be a violation of this section.

2000, c. 549, § 6.1-2.23:1; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.25; 2016, c. 619; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1009.1. Prohibition against payment or receipt of settlement services kickbacks, rebates, commissions, and other payments.

A. No person selling real property, or performing services as a settlement agent, lay real estate settlement agent, real estate agent, attorney, or lender incident to any real estate settlement or sale, shall pay or receive, directly or indirectly, any kickback, rebate, commission, thing of value, or other payment pursuant to any agreement or understanding, oral or otherwise, that business incident to services required to complete a settlement be referred to any person.

B. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit:

1. Expenditures for bona fide advertising and marketing promotions otherwise permissible under the provisions of the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (12 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.);

2. The provision of educational materials or classes, if such materials or classes are provided to a group of persons or entities pursuant to a bona fide marketing or educational effort;

3. The payment to any person of a bona fide salary or compensation or other payment for services actually performed for the business of the settlement service provider; or

4. An employer's payment to its own bona fide employees for referrals of mortgage loan or insurance business. An employer's payment to its own employees for the referral of insurance business shall be subject to the requirements of subdivision B 8 of § 38.2-1821.1.

C. No person shall be in violation of this section solely by reason of ownership in a settlement service provider, where such person receives returns on investments arising from the ownership interest, provided that such person discloses in writing to the consumer an ownership interest in those settlement services, including its ownership percentage in the settlement service provider pursuant to the requirements of § 55.1-905.

2020, c. 700.

§ 55.1-1010. Separate charge for reporting transactions limited.

No settlement agent shall charge any party to a real estate transaction, as a separate item on a settlement statement or closing disclosure, a sum exceeding $10 for complying with any requirement imposed on the settlement agent by § 58.1-316 or 58.1-317.

2005, cc. 734, 780, § 6.1-2.23:2; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.26; 2016, c. 619; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1011. Record retention requirements.

The settlement agent shall maintain sufficient records of its affairs so that the appropriate licensing authority may adequately ensure that the settlement agent is in compliance with all provisions of this chapter. The settlement agent shall retain records pertaining to each settlement handled for a minimum of five years after the settlement is completed. The appropriate licensing authority may prescribe the specific record entries and documents to be kept.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.24; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.27; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1012. Regulations and orders.

Except as provided in § 55.1-1014, the appropriate licensing authority may issue summonses, subpoenas, rules, regulations, and orders, including educational requirements, consistent with and necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.25; 2004, cc. 336, 597; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.28; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1013. Accounting by title insurance companies.

A title insurance company domiciled in the Commonwealth or acting in the capacity of a settlement agent pursuant to this chapter shall account for funds held and income derived from escrow, closing, or settlement services in accordance with the applicable instructions of, and the accounting practices and procedures manuals adopted by, the Association when filing the annual statements and reports required under Chapter 13 (§ 38.2-1300 et seq.) of Title 38.2.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.25; 2004, cc. 336, 597; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.29; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1014. Settlement agent registration requirements and compliance with unauthorized practice of law guidelines; civil penalty.

A. Every settlement agent subject to the provisions of this chapter shall be registered as such with the appropriate licensing authority. In conjunction therewith, settlement agents shall furnish (i) their names, business addresses, and telephone numbers and (ii) such other information as may be required. Each such registration (a) shall be accompanied by a nonrefundable fee prescribed by the appropriate licensing authority and (b) shall be renewed at least biennially thereafter, except that (1) the registration of a person described in subdivision A 2 of § 55.1-1003 shall be renewed on or before May 1, 2021, and biennially thereafter and (2) the registration of a person described in subdivision A 3 of § 55.1-1003 shall be renewed at the same time as renewal of his title insurance agent license pursuant to § 38.2-1825.1. When the registration of a settlement agent is renewed, the appropriate licensing authority shall notify the registrant of the provisions of § 17.1-223.

B. The Commission shall retain the authority to enforce the provisions of and impose any penalty or remedy authorized by this title and Title 38.2 against any person who is under investigation by the Commission for or charged with a violation of this title, even if the person's license or registration has been surrendered, terminated, suspended, or revoked or has lapsed by operation of law.

C. The Virginia State Bar, in consultation with the Commission and the Real Estate Board, shall adopt regulations establishing guidelines for settlement agents designed to assist them in avoiding and preventing the unauthorized practice of law in conjunction with providing escrow, closing, and settlement services. Such guidelines shall be furnished by the appropriate licensing authority to (i) each settlement agent at the time of registration and any renewal thereof, (ii) state and federal agencies that regulate financial institutions, and (iii) members of the general public upon request. Such guidelines shall also be furnished by settlement agents to any party to a real estate transaction in which such agents are providing escrow, closing, or settlement services, upon request.

D. The Virginia State Bar shall receive complaints concerning settlement agent or financial institution noncompliance with the guidelines established pursuant to subsection C and shall (i) investigate such complaints to the extent they concern the unauthorized practice of law or any other matter within its jurisdiction and (ii) refer all other matters or allegations to the appropriate licensing authority. The willful failure of any settlement agent to comply with the guidelines shall be considered a violation of this chapter, and such agent shall be subject to a civil penalty not exceeding $5,000 for each such failure as the Virginia State Bar may determine.

1997, c. 716, §§ 6.1-2.25, 6.1-2.26; 2004, cc. 336, 597; 2009, c. 256; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.30; 2016, c. 619; 2019, cc. 675, 712; 2020, c. 225.

§ 55.1-1015. Penalties and liabilities.

A. If the appropriate licensing authority determines that the settlement agent licensed by it or any of its other licensees has violated this chapter, or any regulation or order adopted thereunder, after notice and opportunity to be heard, the appropriate licensing authority may do one or more of the following:

1. Impose a civil penalty not exceeding $5,000 for each violation;

2. Revoke or suspend the applicable licenses;

3. Issue a restraining order requiring such person to cease and desist from engaging in such act or practice; or

4. Require restitution to be made by the person violating this chapter in the amount of any actual, direct financial loss.

B. The appropriate licensing authority may terminate administratively the registration of any settlement agent if the settlement agent (i) no longer holds a license, (ii) fails to renew its registration, or (iii) fails to comply with the financial responsibility requirements set forth in § 55.1-1004.

C. In addition to the authority given in subsection A, and pursuant to § 12.1-13, the Commission, after determining that any person who does not hold a license from the appropriate licensing authority has violated this chapter or any regulation or order adopted thereunder, may do one or more of the following:

1. Impose a civil penalty not exceeding $5,000 for each violation;

2. Issue a temporary or permanent injunction, or restraining order requiring such person to cease and desist from engaging in such act or practice; or

3. Require restitution to be made by the person violating this chapter in the amount of any actual, direct financial loss.

D. Nothing in this section shall affect the right of the appropriate licensing authority to impose any other penalties provided by law or regulation. Notwithstanding any provision contained in this section to the contrary, as to that portion of any complaint by a party to the real estate transaction arising under this chapter or any regulation or order adopted thereunder relating to the unauthorized practice of law, the Virginia State Bar, after complying with applicable law and regulation relating to unauthorized practice of law complaints and concluding the activity was not authorized by statute or regulation, may refer that portion of such complaint to the Attorney General or an attorney for the Commonwealth. The Attorney General or attorney for the Commonwealth may, in addition to any other powers conferred on him by law, seek the issuance of a temporary or permanent injunction or restraining order against any person so violating this chapter or any regulation or order adopted thereunder.

E. A final order of the licensing authority imposing a civil penalty or ordering restitution may be recorded, enforced, and satisfied as orders of a circuit court upon certification of such order by the licensing authority.

1997, c. 716, § 6.1-2.27; 2000, c. 549; 2004, c. 597; 2009, c. 256; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.31; 2019, c. 712.

§ 55.1-1015.1. Civil penalties; attorney fees.

A. In addition to the penalties and liabilities set forth in §§ 55.1-1009.1 and 55.1-1015, in any action brought under this chapter, if a court finds that a person has willfully engaged in an act or practice in violation of this chapter, the Attorney General may recover for the Literary Fund, upon petition to the court, a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 per violation. For purposes of this section, prima facie evidence of a willful violation may be shown when the Attorney General notifies the alleged violator by certified mail that an act or practice is a violation of this chapter and the alleged violator, after receipt of the notice, continues to engage in the act or practice.

B. The Attorney General recovering a civil penalty under subsection A, or the appropriate licensing authority or the Commission instituting an enforcement action under § 55.1-1015, may recover costs and reasonable expenses incurred by it in investigating and preparing the case and attorney fees.

2020, c. 700.

§ 55.1-1016. Confidentiality of information obtained by the Commission.

A. Any documents, materials, or other information in the control or possession of the Commission that are furnished by a title insurance company or title insurance agent or an employee thereof acting on behalf of the title insurance company or title insurance agent, or obtained by the Commission in an investigation pursuant to this chapter, shall be confidential by law and privileged, shall not be subject to inspection or review by the general public, shall not be subject to subpoena, and shall not be subject to discovery or admissible in evidence in any private civil action. The Commission is authorized to use the documents, materials, or other information in the furtherance of any regulatory or legal action brought as a part of the Commission's duties.

B. Neither the Commission nor any person who received documents, materials, or other information while acting under the authority of the Commission shall be permitted or required to testify in any private civil action concerning any confidential documents, materials, or information subject to subsection A.

C. In order to assist in the performance of the Commission's duties under this chapter, the Commission:

1. May share documents, material, or other information, including the confidential and privileged documents, materials, or information subject to subsection A, with other state, federal, and international regulatory agencies, with the Association and its affiliates and subsidiaries, and with local, state, federal, and international law-enforcement authorities, provided that the recipient agrees to maintain the confidentiality and privileged status of the document, material, or other information; and

2. May receive documents, materials, or information, including otherwise confidential and privileged documents, materials, or information, from the Association or its affiliates or subsidiaries and from regulatory and law-enforcement officials of other foreign or domestic jurisdictions and shall maintain as confidential or privileged any document, material, or information received with notice or the understanding that it is confidential or privileged under the laws of the jurisdiction that is the source of the document, material, or information.

D. No waiver of any applicable privilege or claim of confidentiality in the documents, materials, or information shall occur as a result of disclosure to the Commission under this section or as a result of sharing as authorized in subsection C.

E. Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit the Commission from releasing final, adjudicated actions, including for-cause terminations that are open to public inspection pursuant to Chapter 4 (§ 12.1-18 et seq.) of Title 12.1, to a database or other clearinghouse service maintained by the Association or its affiliates or subsidiaries.

2006, c. 312, § 6.1-2.27:1; 2008, c. 303; 2010, c. 794, § 55-525.32; 2019, c. 712.