So, here in Florida, it’s my understanding that my local county doesn’t require witnesses to record a mortgage. However, most generic mortgage docs do have the spots for two witnesses to sign. I typically confirm with title companies that I haven’t worked with before as to their preference and usually am just told something along the lines of “no witnesses needed, thanks for asking”.
OK… so, what is the best practice to do with those lines? Have the signer write N/A on them? Or simply leave them blank knowing they are not needed?
To avoid potential UPL, I had typically left them blank, and have not had it be an issue so far.
I’m questioning myself because on a recent signing for a new title company I informed them that the signer did not have access to a disinterested adult witness (a generic question I ask on first contact when I haven’t received docs yet) and asked if the lender needed witnesses at all or would we need to get one (notary can be one of the two, so only need one more). And they answered… “yes, the lender would like the witness lines signed, so just sign yourself as one of the witnesses and leave the other blank and I will sign it over here” [This was in writing too!!!]
Time was at a critical point so I wound up bringing a family member as a witness (confirmed with signer that they were ok with this) and avoided the whole dilemma. But I am still left wondering how to best handle this in the future.
I had never considered that leaving the witness lines blank could be misused this way by title being that I thought they were just aware that witnesses are not required to record the mortgage and assumed they were leaving them blank, but now having been told the “system” this particular company uses (even if only to appease the lender) I wonder if I have been wrong in leaving them blank all this time.
Journals are not required here, but I do notate that no witnesses signed when the unused spaces are there. I know my journal will protect me, but can I do better? Should I add a note in my certificate stating something like “No additional witness was present nor signed.” ??
If this were not a notarized doc, I wouldn’t give it much thought, but being notarized… should I inform title that if witnesses are not required I will be instructing signers to fill blank lines with “N/A” so that if a witness is truly required by the lender that they need to ascertain that one will be available (and truly present!)?
The irony is, that I know personally the witness isn’t required to record, but by the lender insisting on one and me staying in my notary lane, I now have to become the defender of doing it correctly and potentially causing a snag despite it actually being unnecessary!
I know these folks are in a crunch with so much work, but this type of cutting of corners is never justified and will take years to blow up in their face if there’s ever an issue that comes to light.