381.022. 1. As used in sections 381.011 to 381.412, the following terms mean:
(1) "Escrow", written instruments, money or other items deposited by one party with a depository, escrow agent, or escrowee for delivery to another party upon the performance of a specified condition or the happening of a certain event;
(2) "Qualified depository institution", an institution that is:
(a) Organized or, in the case of a United States branch or agency office of a foreign banking organization, licensed under the laws of the United States or any state and has been granted authority to operate with fiduciary powers;
(b) Regulated, supervised, and examined by federal or state authorities having regulatory authority over banks and trust companies;
(c) Insured by the appropriate federal entity; and
(d) Qualified under any additional rules established by the director; (3) "Security" or "security deposit", funds or other property received by the title insurer as collateral to secure an indemnitor's obligation under an indemnity agreement under which the insurer is granted a perfected security interest in the collateral in exchange for agreeing to provide coverage in a title insurance policy for a specific title exception to coverage.
2. A title insurer, title agency, or title agent not affiliated with a title agency may operate as an escrow, security, settlement, or closing agent, provided that all funds deposited with the title insurer, title agency, or title agent not affiliated with a title agency, pursuant to written instructions in connection with any escrow, settlement, closing, or security deposit shall be submitted for collection to or deposited in a separate fiduciary trust account or accounts in a qualified depository institution no later than the close of the second business day after receipt, in accordance with the following requirements:
(1) The funds regulated under this section shall be the property of the person or persons entitled to them under the provisions of the escrow, settlement, security deposit, or closing agreement and shall be segregated for each depository by escrow, settlement, security deposit, or closing in the records of the title insurer, title agency, or title agent not affiliated with a title agency, in a manner that permits the funds to be identified on an individual basis and in accordance with the terms of the individual written instructions or agreements under which the funds were accepted; and
(2) The funds shall be applied only in accordance with the terms of the individual written instructions or agreements under which the funds were accepted.
3. It is unlawful for any person to:
(1) Commingle personal or any other moneys with escrow funds regulated under this section;
(2) Use such escrow funds to pay or indemnify against debts of the title insurance agent or of any other person;
(3) Use such escrow funds for any purpose other than to fulfill the terms of the individual written escrow instructions after the necessary conditions of the written escrow instructions have been met;
(4) Disburse any funds held in an escrow account unless the disbursement is made under a written instruction or agreement specifying under what conditions and to whom such funds may be disbursed or under an order of a court of competent jurisdiction; or
(5) Disburse any funds held in a security deposit account unless the disbursement is made under a written agreement specifying:
(a) What actions the indemnitor shall take to satisfy his or her obligation under the agreement;
(b) The duties of the title insurer, title agency, or title agent not affiliated with a title agency with respect to disposition of the funds held, including a requirement to maintain evidence of the disposition of the title exception before any balance may be paid over to the depositing party or his or her designee; and
(c) Any other provisions the director may require by rule or order.
4. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection 3 of this section, any bank credits, bank services, interest, or similar consideration received on funds deposited in connection with any escrow, settlement, security deposit, or closing may be retained by the title insurer, title agency, or title agent not affiliated with a title agency as compensation for administration of the escrow or security deposit, unless the specific written instructions for the funds or a governing statute provides otherwise.
5. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection 2 of this section, a title insurer, title agency, or title agent is not authorized to provide such services as an escrow, security, settlement, or closing agent in a residential real estate transaction unless as part of the same transaction the title insurer, title agency, or title agent issues a commitment, binder, or title insurance policy and closing protection letters have been issued protecting the buyer's and the seller's interests, or the title agency or agent has given written notice to the affected person in a title insurance commitment or on a form approved by rule promulgated by the director that the person's interest in the closing or settlement is not protected by the title insurer, title agency, or title agent.
6. It is unlawful for any title agency or agent to engage in the handling of an escrow, settlement or closing of a residential real estate transaction unless the escrow handling, settlement or closing is conducted or performed in contemplation of and in conjunction with the issuance of a title insurance policy or a closing protection letter, or prior to the receipt of any funds, the title agency or agent clearly discloses to the seller, buyer or lender involved in such escrow, settlement or closing, that no title insurer is providing any protection for closing or settlement funds received by the title agency or agent.
7. A violation of any provision under this section is a level three violation under section 374.049.
(L. 2000 S.B. 894, A.L. 2007 S.B. 66)
Missouri General Assembly