In recent years, there have been widespread allegations that some title companies provide gifts and incentives to real estate agents to buy their customers’ business. Title companies have expressed confusion about which incentives are and are not allowed under title insurance rules.
In response to this confusion, rules were developed that clearly outline what can be given to persons in a position to refer business to a title company. If it’s not specifically listed in the rules, it's not allowed.
Following is a brief summary of those rules. Please note that many of the summaries use real estate agents as an example, but the rules apply to anyone who is in a position to refer business to a title company.
For more information, read the complete rules (leg.wa.gov).
Title companies may provide the following information about a specific piece of property free of charge:
- The last deed
- Current deeds of trust, mortgages and contracts
- A map that shows the dimensions and/or location
- Restrictive covenants
- Tax information
- Property characteristics, such as the size, number of rooms and year built
See WAC 284-29-210 (leg.wa.gov).
Title companies can only advertise themselves (not a real estate agent or a property the agent is trying to sell) and they must pay the standard rate charged to the public. This applies to all forms of advertising, including newspapers, phone books, the Internet, TV and radio. See WAC 284-29-215 (leg.wa.gov).
Title companies may give self-promotional items, such as pens and mugs, with their logos on them as long as each item costs less than $5. See WAC 284-29-225 (leg.wa.gov).
Each title company may donate up to $1,000 per event, up to three total trade association events per year. See WAC 284-29-220 (leg.wa.gov).
Business entertainment, including meals
A title company may provide meals for real estate agents under certain circumstances. These situations and a definition of "meals" are described in WAC 284-29-230 (leg.wa.gov).
Title companies may provide free training on title-insurance, title-to-real-property and escrow topics, and may provide refreshments that cost a maximum of $10 per person. They can provide training on another topic as long as it is open to everyone and the attendees pay to attend. See WAC 284-29-235 (leg.wa.gov).
Title agents located in real estate offices
Title companies may rent a workspace from a real estate agent if the arrangement is covered in a lease; the rent reflects true market value; the title company employee actually uses the space at least 30 hours each week; and he or she pays proportionately for any common fees. See WAC 284-29-245 (leg.wa.gov).
Donations and memorials
Title companies may:
- Donate to registered political action committees. See WAC 284-29-240 (leg.wa.gov).
- Provide gifts, in the event of a death, up to a value of $200.
- Make charitable donations under certain conditions. See WAC 284-29-250 (leg.wa.gov).
The rules include a list of other things that are and are not permitted. Read sections 255 (leg.wa.gov) and 260 (leg.wa.gov) for more information.
Submitting questions about title insurance inducements
When submitting a question, you must identity the specific section(s) or subsection(s) of WAC 284-29-200 through 265 (leg.wa.gov) that you believe clearly addresses the subject of your question. This will ensure you receive a faster response. If you're unable to find or identify a specific regulation, then it means the practice or conduct you're asking about isn't allowed. See RCW 48.29.210(2) (leg.wa.gov).