I would be remiss if I did not begin this message by expressing my gratitude to you, the members of the Maryland Land Title Association (MLTA), for allowing me to serve as the 2016-17 MLTA President. I would also like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the volunteers who serve on the Board of Directors, Committee chairs and members, and Chapter chairs and members. I would like to thank our Immediate Past President, Wanda DeBord, for her service and congratulate her on a job well done. Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank our Executive Director, Margaret Webb, and our lobbyist, Bill Pitcher, for their extremely valuable service and dedication to our organization.
For those of you who attended the MLTA Fall Convention in Ocean City this past September, this message will sound familiar to you, so I will apologize in advance. During that meeting, I spoke of two underlying themes for the coming year.
The first theme is “Defining the Moment.” The COO of my company talks a lot about defining moments. There are certain defining moments that arise during one’s lifetime, whether they occur in your career path, in running your business, or in your personal life. You can either let these moments define you, or you can take charge and define the moment. One of those defining moments occurred in October, 2015, with the implementation of CFPB’s TRID Rule. It could have been very possible to let that moment define us. We could have allowed others in the real estate industry to define who we are, as title professionals, and what we do. But, we do not want others who don’t understand what we do to try to define it for us. I don’t think we allowed that. I think that the title industry, through ALTA and MLTA, stepped up. We let our voices be heard, and we defined the moment.
We are still defining the moment. As you all know, one of the parts of the Rule that greatly affects us is the requirement to show owner’s title insurance as “optional” on the new forms. “Optional” is not ideal, but it is better than the original “Not Required” description that the CFPB wanted. In an effort to keep defining the moment, this past September, the MLTA participated in the Maryland Association of Realtors (MAR) Convention. We contacted the MAR and requested to appear on their convention agenda. They agreed, and we provided a three-person panel to discuss the importance of owner’s title insurance. Additionally, we provided an exhibitor’s booth staffed by MLTA volunteers to disseminate information and answer questions realtors may have regarding title insurance. This is a concrete example of the MLTA working for, and providing a direct benefit to, our membership.
The second theme we discussed in September was “Taking Ownership.” The MLTA is your organization. It is your trade association. I would ask each of you to take “ownership” in it and become involved in some way, whether it is through a committee or chapter, or by recruiting additional members. We definitely appreciate all of our dues-paying members; but, we could achieve so much more if our members played an active role in the operations of the organization.
If you have a cause or an issue that you feel strongly about, and you wish that the MLTA would do something about, please bring it to our attention. We likely will ask you to take ownership of the cause, and we will give you the support you need to bring about change. As long as it’s not something crazy. At the convention, I mentioned a couple of examples of members taking ownership of an issue. When our Immediate Past President, Wanda DeBord, joined the Board of Directors, she noticed that the attention we were getting from the MLTA’s former financial advisors was less than adequate. So, she took this cause upon herself, did the legwork, and found a group more willing to work closely with us. The MLTA Board made the change and, in my opinion, it has been greatly beneficial. Our current Treasurer, Bill O’Connell, did the same thing. He recognized a need in Maryland to codify requirements regarding quiet title actions. So, he assumed ownership of this issue two years ago and, with the MLTA’s support, was able to get legislation passed that will help the title industry in Maryland.
I briefly mentioned above the recruitment of additional members. Growing our organization is important for a few reasons. First, there is strength in numbers. The larger our organization is, the more likely our voices are to be heard in Annapolis. Secondly, the more members we have, the more likely we are to have members who have direct relationships with individual legislators. It was Wanda and Bill’s direct contact with Delegate O’Donnell that helped move the Quiet Title Bill forward. I think that our lobbyist, Bill Pitcher, would agree that legislators like to assist their constituents, even if they don’t completely understand the issue. They like to help because they envision their good will as translating to votes down the road. Thirdly, increased membership guarantees our viability as an organization. There was a time in the not too distant past when we had some serious concerns regarding our long-term viability.
So my challenge to all MLTA members is to take ownership of the Association. I challenge each of you to recruit a new member and/or become active in a Committee or Chapter. I know most of you know a lot of people in our industry, and even if they are competitors of yours, please reach out and ask them to join us. I like to compare it to the Army-Navy football game. They are rivals on the field, but at the end of the day, they are fighting for the same cause. Please reach out to agents, vendors, attorneys, or anyone else who you think might help us and receive some benefit from what we do. One of my specific goals this coming year is to increase our attorney membership. There are attorneys out there who specialize in real estate transactions, and I believe the MLTA can be beneficial to them in different ways than the Bar Association. I anticipate that our new Title Counsel Committee will prove to be a very valuable benefit to attorney members. As additional incentive, we are offering $50 of “MLTA Bucks” for each new member you bring to the Association! For details, please feel free to contact Margaret Webb at MLTA@mdlta.com.
If you cannot convince someone to join, then please consider serving on a committee or getting involved in a regional chapter. We are always looking for fresh ideas on how to move the organization forward in ways that benefit our members. I would encourage you to look at the various committees and chapters we have and see which ones interest you. Committee and chapter participation does not require a large time commitment, as most committees meet by conference call about once a month, and most local chapters meet roughly four to six times per year.
Thank you again and we look forward to a very active and successful year!