Notary Crisis Update

As we continue to shelter in place, some of you may be wondering about how to proceed with your notary businesses and your notary commissions.

The short answer is: follow regular state laws.

New Notaries:

The deadline for new notaries to file their oath and bond remains unchanged. Because most county clerk’s offices are closed throughout the state, this means oaths and bonds must be sent by mail in order to be processed. When sending your materials, make sure to include payment for the associated fees, which in LA county are around $46, you can see their breakdown here. Fees vary by county, so visit your local County Clerk’s website for more information.

The Los Angeles County Clerk’s office recently reported that they have been inundated by the oaths and bonds they’ve received so far and that new notaries should expect significant delays in processing. They’ve also had issues with incomplete filing packages. 

Their main issues have been:

  • Oaths that are not signed. Your oath must be both signed and notarized before sending it into the County Clerk. We realize this may not be convenient and may potentially be unsafe, but, at this time, it is the only way to send in a complete package.Remember, notaries cannot charge for administering an oath of office.
  • Incorrect fees. Each bond page is $3 and double sided pages count twice.
  • Missing fees: They’ve received packages with checks that are not signed or without payment altogether. 

Remember, incomplete packages will not be processed and will cause you to miss your filing deadline. Extensions are not possible without a change in legislation, so make extra sure to dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s”.

When mailing your filing packet, you must  include all of the following:

  • A photocopy of your commission certificate.
  • Your original bond signed by you.
  • A photocopy of your bond.
  • Two signed and notarized oaths of office forms (you’ll have to find a Notary and have these notarized in your county).
  • Filing fees (check your county clerk/recorder’s website for information on fees).
  • A daytime phone number where you can be reached.
  • Provide a  letter requesting a conformed copy of your bond as confirmation that it has been filed.
  • Provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope (to return the conformed copy).

Please also take special note of the last two bullet points. If the letter requesting the conformed copy of the bond and the envelope are not included, your filing will not be confirmed.

When sending your package, you must send via USPS certified or registered mail or any form of physical delivery that provides a receipt. 

Active Notaries:

California is currently one of only thirteen states that does not allow remote notarizations. The only way to change the rules surrounding notaries in the State of California is enacting legislation, which we know is a slow process. Therefore, changing the state’s rules to allow remote notarizations, even in the face of a global pandemic, is not likely to happen, at least not right away. However, there is a way for people to get the notarizations they need during this time of quarantine. California does allow signers to use out of state notaries, so if a client contacts you and you aren’t comfortable meeting with them, you can send them to one of the thirty-seven states that currently allow notaries to work virtually.

While this may not be the news California notaries public want to hear, it does allow for business to continue safely, for the time being. Don’t fret, though, notaries. Action is being taken. Last week, on April 2nd, industry professionals including the California Association of Realtors and the California Banker’s Association, banded together and sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to issue an executive order to allow remote notarizations here in California. No such order has been issued, yet, but there is a movement. You can read the letter here. 

From the Secretary of State:

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office has released the answers to some frequently asked COVID-19 notary questions. Here’s what they said.

Question 1: How can I file my notary public oath and bond if the country offices are closed?

Their Answer: “Many county clerk’s offices are closed to the public; however, some are still accepting filings by mail. You will have to contact your county clerk’s office to see if they are accepting notary oath filings by mail. If so, the instructions are included in your commission packet. If you are unable to file with the county clerk in the next thirty days due to the closures, please email our office and our office will [assist] you in any way possible.”

Question 2: Can California Notaries Public perform a notarial act without the physical appearance of the signer (Remote Online Notarization)?

Their Answer: “California Law does not provide the authority for California Notaries Public to perform a remote online notarization. The personal appearance of the document signer is required before the notary public. However, California citizens who wish to have their documents notarized remotely can obtain notarial services in another state that currently provides remote online notarization. California Civil Code 1189(b) provides that any certificate of acknowledgment taken in another place shall be sufficient in this state if it is taken in accordance with the law of the place where the acknowledgment is made.”

Question 3: Are the duties of a notary public considered essential services?

Their answer: “The Governor of the State of California has requested that residents of California stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this doesn’t seem to apply to individuals whose job is considered an essential function, our office cannot make the determination if notary public services are considered essential at this time. We recommend you contact the county health department for further guidance. However, the California Secretary of State’s office will not take administrative action against a notary public for performing a notarial act during a shelter in place order providing the notarial act complies with California law.”

Stay safe out there, notaries, and we’ll continue to do our best to keep you up to date as this situation unfolds. 

And, please, remember to wash your hands and, apparently, your groceries.