By Marlene Miller—A letter from a notary signing agent in Pennsylvania says: I have been a notary signing agent for about a year now and have been having problems collecting money owed to me by several companies. Can’t the state legislature do something for us notaries to back us up since we are a public official? We are called to do signings and as a notary we do them with no upfront fee. Then we wait sometimes sixty days or more for our fees, if then. The title companies are getting paid so I would think it would be fraud not to pay the notary. Couldn’t Pennsylvania step up and be the first state to outlaw the problem? The Attorney General’s office says they cannot help us collect money, but Pennsylvania could make and enforce more laws that would help notary signing agents get paid by the companies they work for. —Sandy R., Hazleton, PA
Your problem is universal in the profession. There is probably not a single notary signing agent who hasn’t been stiffed at least once by a company and who feels the rage and frustration you do when it happens. It may seem as if the laws were written to protect the companies and not the honest people who trust them and work for them.
Sandy, you have to step back and look at the bigger picture. There are laws to protect you now—you just have to put them in play instead of standing back and complaining that things aren’t working right.
First, as a notary signing agent, you are an independent contractor. This means you have your own business and are responsible for the contracts you establish with your clients and the collections activities you must pursue with companies, along with everything else having a business entails, like making sure your equipment is in working order and your taxes are filed properly. Collections is simply another aspect of your business that you must do yourself.
Second, the Pennsylvania state legislature currently has nothing to do with the unlicensed, unregulated activities of signing agents and therefore cannot help you with collections. You may urge your legislator to sponsor bills to bring pressure on your clients to pay you, but that would also bring attention to the unlicensed, unregulated nature of your profession—and your clients wouldn’t appreciate what you are doing either.
Think about the mandated fees a notary may charge, and then think about the free market fees you may charge as a signing agent. If the legislature becomes involved in your collections activities, then they will eventually become involved in other aspects of your signing agent business—including your signing agent fees. Do you really want that?
Third, the article, 9 Steps to Getting Paid, may be of help. It lists the steps a notary signing agent should follow to set up proper business practices to ensure prompt payment as well as collections procedures to follow that usually get results.
Remember, Sandy, the person who can stop the companies who don’t pay you in their tracks is you. The organizations and laws and government officials are already in place to help you. All you have to do is take the first step.