Advertising and flyers - title insurance inducements rules
1. May a title company co-advertise with a real estate agent?
2. May a title company that has produced a marketing template offer it to real estate agents and teach them how to use it?
3. May a title company send an email blast that includes flyers for homes that are for sale through various realtors?
4. May a title company that has, in the past, designed flyers on the side for several real estate agents continue this practice?
No. Postcards, stamps, flyers, newsletters, folders, invitations, copying, cutting, or services related to preparing any of these items are all specifically prohibited. See WAC 284-29-260(6)(m) and 284-29-205(13) (www.app.leg.wa.gov) for details.
5. I work for or represent a title company and I used to give flyer boxes to real estate agents for free. I know that’s not allowed but may I sell them to them?
No. The rules specifically prohibit giving flyer boxes and they define “give” as including any transfer of a thing of value whether or not you receive compensation. See WAC 284-29-205(5) and (13) and 284-29-260(6)(l) (www.app.leg.wa.gov) for details.
6. Can a title company provide self-promotional items with its logo on them to a producer if the items cost $5 or less?
Yes, if the self-promotional item is not specifically prohibited. For example, folders are specifically not allowed no matter the cost or presence of logo. Each self-promotional item must cost $5 or less. You must pre-print logos on the actual self-promotional item. Attaching a sticker with the logo on it to the item is not allowed. See WAC 284-29-225 and WAC 284-29-260 (www.app.leg.wa.gov) for details.
7. If a title company provides transaction coordination services for a producer and the producer compensates the title company for those services, can the title company employee performing the service include the producer's information in their email signature?
No. A title company must not directly, indirectly, by payment to a third-party, or otherwise, use any means of communication or media to advertise on behalf of, for, or with a producer. See WAC 284-29-215(2) (www.app.leg.wa.gov) for details.
8. Can title company staff buy an ad in a newspaper and use testimonials from real estate agents, and identify the agents and the office they work for in the ad?
9. Can a title company provide contact information on its website to a listing of homeowners associations in their county?
This is permitted. Homeowners associations are not producers.
10. Can a title company provide a link on its website to a county association of realtors?
This is permitted. The title company website may link to a trade association's website.
11. I manage a title company. Consumers whose homes are worth less than what they owe on their mortgages often ask us to recommend a short sale negotiation company to help in selling their home. We usually recommend an independent company, with whom we have no financial or other business connection. The negotiators do not refer title insurance or escrow business. The negotiators at this company are licensed real estate agents, as required by the Department of Licensing, but they do not list or sell property like a typical agent. Because we find their services both necessary to our customers and professionally sound, we would like to advertise with this company. No money will change hands and the ad will simply let customers know we can provide information about and access to this company’s services, if needed. Can we advertise with this company without violating WAC 284-29-215 (www.app.leg.wa.gov)?
No. The definition of a “producer of title insurance business” as defined in RCW 48.29.010(3) (www.app.leg.wa.gov) specifically includes real estate agents and brokers. Any licensed real estate agent or broker may be in a position to influence the selection of a title company, even if he or she chooses to limit some or all of his or her business activities to short sale negotiations.
12. Can a title company create and own a membership website for local producers and the title company to provide an easy way for members to refer business to each other?
No. This is prohibited. The website and service contitutes giving something of value to someone in a position to refer or influence the referral of title insurance business. In addition, it constitues advertising on behalf of, for, or with a producer. See RCW 48.29.210(2) (www.app.leg.wa.gov) and WAC 284-29-215(2) (www.app.leg.wa.gov) for details.
13. What kind of posting or response constitutes co-advertising on Facebook?
You can use Facebook for both commercial and personal purposes. A company may have a business Facebook page and an individual may have both a business and a personal Facebook page. To determine whether Facebook posts, photos, or comments are co-advertising, you should consider what category the page falls under (commercial or personal) and the substance of the comments and responses.
Generally, a complimentary post with an acknowledgement (for example, thank you) is not considered co-advertising - regardless of whether it is posted on a business or personal Facebook page. Displaying an album of candid photographs posted by a business from a golf tournament or other social event involving industry professionals and tagging the people to appear on their personal page is not considered co-advertising. However, if the comments, responses, or tags identify a particular business or link to professional sites, then it is co-advertising.
You may use Facebook message posts to announce training and classes, and attendees may submit comments as long as those comments do not indicate a professional affiliation.
You may post on Facebook successful closings with the homebuyer, as long as they do not include images or mention a real estate professional. This would be considered an endorsement.