A company that provides home buyers with multiple quotes from title insurance companies is abandoning its strategy of offering consumers cash rewards because the practice falls into a “gray area” of the law, the company said Wednesday.
Get Title Insurance launched its Web site July 31, offering home buyers the ability to get quotes from title insurers who do business in their ZIP code. As an incentive to close the deal, Get Title Insurance offered cash payments to borrowers who purchased policies through the site.
The federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA, prohibits companies from paying rebates or referral fees to each other in order to generate business. But Get Title Insurance Chief Executive Officer Larry Calinda said the rewards his company offered consumers were legal, in part because the payments were made from Get Title Insurance’s operating expenses, and not by title insurers.
A spokeswoman for Get Title Insurance said some title and settlement services companies had concerns about the issue, so the company sought an independent legal opinion from a law firm that has considerable experience with RESPA regulations.
Although the practice was deemed “defendable,” it is “ultimately still a gray area that has yet to formally garner legal clarity,” said Get Title Insurance spokeswoman Jennifer Richter.
Until the legality of the rewards model is “black and white,” Richter said, Get Title Insurance wants “all professionals within the title insurance industry to be confident in their usage of our site.” Beginning today, consumers no longer have the option of asking for a cash reward when they submit a request for a quote.
Richter said the cash reward option has been “used sporadically” and that Get Title Insurance is seeing the successful conclusion of deals whether or not the reward model is used.
“We didn’t see a make-or-break aspect … and decided that it was better to just eliminate it,” for now, Richter said.