Putting the Stamp on Ohio’s Notary Laws - Greater Cincinnati Automobile Dealers Association

Putting the Stamp on Ohio’s Notary Laws

Summary of the Ohio Notary Modernization Act – Effective September 20, 2019

By  Sara Bruce, Vice President of Legal Affairs and Matt Chacey, Staff Counsel

The Ohio Notary Modernization Act (“the Act”) overhauls Ohio’s notary laws and will allow documents to be notarized electronically and online through audio-video conferencing.

The majority of these changes go into effect on September 20, 2019.

The Act ensures consistent standards across the state for Ohio notaries. The major changes to notary commissions are our outlined in this article as well as what it means for dealers going forward.

Electronic Notarizations

The Act allows a notary public to obtain an electronic signature and electronic seal to notarize electronic documents in the physical presence of the individual seeking the notarization. Under the Act, ANY notary public may obtain an electronic seal and an electronic signature for the purpose of notarizing an electronic document. There will be additional technology and security requirements to electronic signatures and seals obtained for in-person notarizations.

The BMV is currently reviewing the implications that electronic notarization has on the title transfer process and necessary paperwork. We will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available.

Online Notarization Requirements

Once the Act becomes effective, anyone who currently serves as a notary in Ohio will be eligible to become an online notary and conduct a notarial act in Ohio via approved audio-video technology. An online notary will be able to notarize documents of individuals who are not physically present if the notary follows standards for credential analysis and identity verification. The statute specifies that an electronic document notarized through an online notarization is considered an original document. Because online notarization is a new endeavor in Ohio, all those seeking to become online notaries, including attorneys, will be subject to additional training and testing requirements beyond those of traditional notaries.

All online notaries, including attorney online notaries, will be required to renew their online notary commission every five years. Online notaries will also be required to complete continuing education requirements.

As this process continues to develop, dealers may find this is a useful tool to implement so that notaries or their customers do not have to be physically present at the store in order to assist with notarizing documents.

The Ohio Secretary of State (“OSOS”) is currently in the process of drafting rules clarifying online notarization procedures, technology requirements, record retention, and other administrative tasks. OADA will continue to monitor those rules through the rule making process.

Application for Notary Commission Changes

. Under the Act, OSOS will now fully oversee the commissioning and adopting rules for the commission of Ohio notaries. Non-attorney Notaries will continue to have to have a 5-year commission and be eligible for renewal so long as they remain in good standing and follow the renewal requirements outlined in the next section. Generally, non-attorney applicants will have to complete the following:
• Take an educational course as approved through the OSOS;
• Pass a test;
• Obtain a criminal records check showing that the individual has not been convicted of a disqualifying offense;
• Complete an application; and
• Pay a fee of $150 or less (with up to $15 of the fee going to the OSOS and the remainder going to the educational course provider).

For new attorney notary applicants, there are different registration requirements and you should consult with your local bar association or contact OADA legal counsel to discuss further.

Renewing Notary Commission

Please note, a Notary commission that was accepted prior to the effective date of the new law remains valid until that commission’s expiration date. If you have a current notary commission, there are no additional registration requirements until you go to renew your commission. A notary public may submit a renewal application no more than three months before the commission’s expiration.

Under the Act, all commissioned notaries will be required to self-report any conviction of a disqualifying offense to the OSOS. The OSOS will be required to revoke the commission of a notary public who has been convicted of a disqualifying offense.

However, when you go to renew your commission, you will see a few changes. For non-attorney notaries who seek to renew their commission, the applicant will have to:
• Complete the renewal form;
• Complete a 1-hour continuing education program;
• Submit a new criminal records check; and
• Pay a fee of $60 or less

For existing attorney notaries, there is no change to your notary commission. Practicing attorneys maintain their notary commission so long as they are licensed to practice law in Ohio.

Prohibited Acts of Notaries

The Act has also outlined some clear prohibited acts that notaries cannot engage in while commissioned. By performing these acts a notary opens themselves up to disciplinary action, up to and including revocation of their commission, by the OSOS. Generally speaking, most of these prohibitions have already been established as impermissible practices.

However, it is important for all notaries to review these prohibitions to ensure they are conducting themselves in accordance with these restrictions.

  • R.C. 147.141 – Prohibited Acts – HERE
  • R.C. 147.142 – Advertisement as immigration consultant; other prohibited acts – HERE

We will continue to provide information regarding online notarization as the state adopts regulations governing procedures and technical requirements.

If you have any questions or want to learn more about the changes to Ohio’s notary laws, please contact OADA Legal Counsel, Sara Bruce or Matt Chacey. Sara can be reached at (614) 923-2243 or sbruce@oada.com. Matt can be reached at (614) 923-2232 or mchacey@oada.com.