Landtec Surveying, Inc. Billing and Payment Policies:
“Washouts” are not an ambiguous matter open to legal interpretation as many citing RESPA believe. Rather, this is a hard, fast illegal practice.
The Florida Administrative Code governing Land Surveyor’s activities and RESPA both dictate that a Surveyor may not offer any thing of value in exchange for preferential treatment in obtaining surveying work. However, most in the industry are only educated in RESPA. The Florida Administrative Code Rule 5J-17.010(6)(e)(1) specifically prohibits the practice of providing a "washout survey" and reads as follows:
Licensees, whether individual people or business entities holding certificates of authorization, may not offer any bribe, commission or gift, either directly or indirectly, to obtain selection or preferment for surveying and mapping employment.
1. An example of prohibited activity under this part is a practice known as the “washout” survey, wherein a licensee agrees to accept payment for a surveying and mapping service only upon the contingency of a future event other than the completion of the survey and map.
The “contingency of a future event” includes the successful closing of a mortgage transaction. More importantly, offering a washout creates a conflict of interest. If a Surveyor knows that a transaction may fail due to encroachments or other adverse conditions discovered on a property, and he or she would have to washout their fee, then that Surveyor becomes conflicted as to whether they should disclose the detrimental information to their clients. Illegal washout surveys have never been offered at Landtec Surveying. We must be paid for our services but have always considered the needs of our clients. The following outlines our billing and payment policies.
Surveys performed for mortgage closing transactions:
In keeping with Loan Disclosure compliance standards, if fees for services will be higher than our published rates, we will always contact our clients for approvals prior to the commencement of any work. It is advised that borrowers agree to this in writing. When services are ordered by those industry professionals acting as agents for those ultimately responsible for paying these fees (typically borrowers), we do accept our fees from funds disbursed at closing. It is in this way that we extend “credit” to industry clients. This applies to either purchases or refinances.
Under no circumstances will credit continue to be extended to any outstanding files that have not closed within six months (180 days) - at which time they become immediately due and payable.
When a survey has been ordered on behalf of a borrower, we have no legal basis for holding that borrower accountable for payment. We must hold those actually placing orders with us accountable. Some industry agents choose to order the survey themselves but have us collect our fee directly from the borrower. This allows industry professionals to retain control of the process but not assume liability for payment. This is acceptable and we will furnish a credit card authorization form to the interested parties to secure payment. Personal checks are also accepted but must be provided prior to the commencement of work.
An invoice is forwarded along with the delivery of each of our surveys. These documents are typically delivered to the party initially ordering the services unless instructed otherwise. Our standard method of delivery is email of electronically sealed documents. Delivery of hardcopy documents via US Mail is also available either as a standard practice for all jobs delivered (itemized in your account settings) or on a job by job basis (by selection on each order placed) – additional fees may apply.
Cancelled mortgage transactions:
Mortgage industry agents should notify their customers that they are responsible for payment.
If you are not collecting and/or holding the fee in escrow, we highly recommend that all agents have their clients/borrowers sign an acknowledgement that they are aware that a survey is being ordered on their behalf. This is a simple and safe way to avoid misunderstandings between all involved parties.
If a transaction fails to close and we have already rendered services, we do expect payment of our fees. We realize that in most cases the borrower is ultimately responsible for payment. In the event of a cancelled transaction, if funds have been withheld in escrow, please provide for their release and the payment of our fee. If however funds were not withheld or otherwise prepaid, industry professionals who have ordered services should remit payment to us immediately and may forward a copy of our invoice to the borrower to seek reimbursement.
In an effort to assist all of our clients, we will review each circumstance and make any appropriate adjustments. We will always work our hardest to facilitate the needs of all involved parties. It is in this way that we can ensure consistent quality service and continue to extend low fees to all of our customers.
Cancellation Protection Plans:
We fully understand the dynamics of mortgage transactions and realize that industry professionals may sometimes get stuck with the bill. Landtec offers several pricing plans for its clients and we require all clients to fill out and sign a Customer Pricing Selection Form. All our pricing plans are tiered and are designed to factor in discounts for certain volumes of recurring business. Other options include flat rate pricing while other available options include Cancellation Protection. Pricing plans that include cancellation protection factor in slightly higher charges and act to include insurance surcharges for any possible cancelled files.
Landtec will generally allow up to a 10% cancellation rate when clients opt for this type of coverage. However, a client’s volume of work as well as the general nature of the types of surveys typically ordered will affect the allowable percentage. This can only be determined by analyses of individual clients based upon liability risk assessment and client profitability levels.
Landtec reviews client average performance levels twice each year – in January and in July. We review factors such as turnaround time, volume, cancellation rates, accounts ageing and payment lag times, interaction methods, and overall client satisfaction. If it determined that a client requires an upward or downward change in pricing, they will be contacted by their Accounts Manager to discuss all available options.
Boundary surveys are provided as an aspect of due diligence. Cancellation protection is available on any file provided the transaction did not fail due to the disclosure of adverse conditions on a survey.
We require clients to report cancellations – and the reason for cancellation - to our office immediately so we may maintain accurate client accounting records.
An internal auditing program which utilizes the Public Records automatically ensures the validity of all transaction cancellation requests.
REO and foreclosures:
We understand that some industry firms that specialize in REO or foreclosure transactions are unique in that if a transaction cancels, the firm still retains the file and simply must find another buyer for the subject property. These firms remain entirely responsible for payment in full on all files and we fully accommodate these customers by recertifying completed surveys accordingly. We will await payment until a closing is completed or for a period of 1 year from the initial date of delivery, whichever comes first.
There are sometimes delays in the closing process. For this reason, we will issue periodic aging statements to our clients as a reminder indicating all outstanding files delivered over 30 days prior to the statement date.
Customers receiving such a statement can simply indicate directly on the statement the updated status of files shown (rescheduled closing date, etc) and send this back to their Landtec Accounts Manager. Payments are also occasionally and inadvertently overlooked at closing - the statement also serves as a reminder to remit those payments.
As mentioned, credit will not be extended to any files that have not closed within six months. Regardless of their status, any files shown on the statement to be over 180 days are immediately due and payable.
Surveys performed for parties other than mortgage industry professionals:
Any surveys delivered for any other purposes and/or when ordered by individuals or contractors acting on behalf of individuals, must be paid in full prior to commencement of any work.
Landtec accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover or personal check. If for any reason work is performed prior to receiving payment, The interested party shall receive a call from our offices informing them of the completion of the work and the surveys may then either be picked up directly from the appropriate Landtec office and paid for at that time or a credit card payment may be made prior to our delivering our surveys either electronically or via U.S Mail. Checks drawn on U.S. funds may also be mailed to our office and once received, the surveys will be delivered.
Under no circumstances will surveys be released without first receiving payment.
Multi-phase/long term projects:
Any services provided for long term - typically multi-phase construction related projects will be billed according to a billing schedule as outlined in an initial written contract. Generally, these types of services are performed for developers of residential or commercial projects. Invoices will typically be delivered either on a monthly basis or as phases of work are completed - dependent upon the scope of work being performed. Payment is due upon receipt of our invoices.
Collection agency policies:
Any customers not illustrating responsible management of their account may be subject to referral to our collection agency. If our continued in house attempts at collecting any outstanding fees should fail, files will be sent to our collection agency for further action. Customers placed in collection will incur additional collection fees. Reasons for referral include:
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