As it steps up its lobbying efforts, the American Land Title Association has decided charge an annual licensing fee of $195

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As it steps up its lobbying efforts, the American Land Title Association has decided charge an annual licensing fee of $195  license to non-members who use the trade association’s uniform title insurance policy forms to help generate revenue to cover those and other expenses.

ALTA is granting free memberships for the remainder of 2009, but companies must choose to either continue their ALTA membership or pay the annual licensing fee if they want to continue using ALTA’s uniform title insurance policy forms in 2010, the group said.

For title insurance agents and underwriting companies, ALTA charges dues on a sliding scale based on gross revenue. For 2009, dues for agents of title insurance companies range from $460 to $11,500, while dues for title insurance underwriter companies start at $862.50 a year and can exceed $32,000 for the largest companies.

Agents may think the forms belong to their underwriters, ALTA said, but the trade association created the standardized forms to "eliminate the confusion and chaos of disparate coverage."

In a press release, ALTA said it is "doing more than ever to carry the banner" for the industry, including "dramatically increasing the size of its political action committee," tripling the number of in-house registered lobbyists, and hiring outside "lobbying talent." ALTA said it is also commissioning new industry research to demonstrate the value of the industry to policymakers and increasing collaboration with state land title associations "to enhance their ability to counter hostile legislation and regulation."

ALTA is also getting more involved with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) title insurance working group and spearheading the creation of a RESPA Implementation Task Force to work with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the new RESPA rule.

Licensing the policy forms will help ensure that all who benefit from such efforts share their cost, ALTA said.

"The land title industry is at a critical juncture where we have the opportunity to step up and show home buyers, lenders, and our communities how we have made our land recordation system the best in the world," ALTA President Mike Pryor said in a statement. "Or, we can sit back and watch our life’s work be altered completely by a stroke of a legislative pen or a regulatory change."

According to the Center for Responsive Politics Web site, OpenSecrets.org, ALTA has spent $157,000 lobbying this year, nearly double the $80,000 expended in 2007. According to OpenSecrets.org, lobbying expenditures by the real estate industry peaked at $89 million in 2005.

ALTA’s political action committee, or PAC, has spent $190,532 on the 2010 election cycle, with 63 percent of contributions going to Republicans who are candidates for federal office, and 37 percent to Democrats, OpenSecrets.org said.

The real estate industry has made $1.3 million in contributions to federal candidates in the 2010 election cycle, with 58 percent of that money going to Democrats and 42 percent to Republicans, OpenSecrets.org reports.

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