CTtalk: Advance Survey Analysis

In our latest edition of CTtalk, we provide an in-depth look at analyzing surveys, from gaps and overlaps to conflicting legal descriptions.  Whether you're new to the title insurance industry or a seasoned professional, this article will help all real estate professionals gain a better understanding of surveys and how they are an integral part of a real estate transaction.


Cannabis Customer Memo

Download Customer Memo

Schedule B, Part I of all title commitments issued by Chicago Title Insurance Company (“Chicago Title”) now include the following:

      1. Notice: Please be aware that due to the conflict between federal and state laws concerning the cultivation, distribution, manufacture or sale of marijuana, the Company is not able to close or insure any transaction involving Land that is associated with these activities.

While a number of states have legalized the cultivation and distribution of marijuana at various levels, it remains recognized as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government. Further, the manufacturing, distribution, or possession of marijuana is punishable under the Controlled Substances Act (the “CSA”).  In the event of federal prosecution and when read with the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, the CSA would govern and supersede any state law that does not agree.  Given the conflict between federal and state laws at this time, Chicago Title will not insure land that is associated with marijuana-based activities.

Outside of the above, we have received inquiries concerning Chicago Title’s stance on insuring land that is used for the production, distribution and/or sale of hemp products and hemp-derived products such as Cannabidiol (CBD).  While it is important that you reach out to your Chicago Title, NCS Chicago account manager to begin conversations concerning our willingness to insure land involving any such related uses, the following shall serve as basic guidelines in these areas:


Under the recently passed Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”), the production of hemp has been legalized on a federal level, subject to the conditions contained therein.  Chicago Title is willing to insure land containing hemp facilities, provided we are able to determine that such facilities exist legally under both state and federal law—with all necessary permits/licenses issued by the appropriate authorities.


CBD and other hemp-derived products are likewise legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, provided the hemp from which they are derived is produced in accordance with the Bill.  As a result, Chicago Title is willing to insure land containing retail establishments being used for the sale of such hemp-derived products.

Since the regulation of the above remains in a state of fluctuation, it is important that all specific questions concerning Chicago Title’s position be directed to your Chicago Title, NCS Chicago account manager.  We strongly encourage that our customers have conversations with their clients about the planned use(s) of land and address questions as to Chicago Title’s willingness to insure as early as possible.

What is Blockchain and How Will It Impact Real Estate?

By Paul Peterson
V.P. & Senior Underwriter
Chicago Title Insurance Company

Download the article HERE

The simplest definition of Blockchain that I have seen is “Blockchain:  a type of encrypted electronic transaction ledger in which new information can be added, but previous information (which are stored in blocks) cannot be edited or deleted.”  Yet Blockchain is more than an electronic encrypted abstract that is contained on multiple disbursed computers that should make it nearly impossible to simultaneously hack and change. It is an abstract that can be viewed either by the public or only those who have a passcode access.  New information can be entered onto the chain only by parties with passcode access.  If the Blockchain is in essence made the title certificate to an asset, you can transfer the Blockchain “token” representing that asset to another party through your passcode access.  Blockchain is the underlying program through which cryptocurrency is transferred.  There is already a story, however, of parties losing millions because the company they stored their passcode with cannot unencrypt the deceased president’s computer that contained the passcodes.  If you combine Blockchain with what are called smart contracts, you can set up escrow agreements and simultaneously transfer the token that is title to the asset for cryptocurrency or cash and have a ledger for both parties of the transfer.  Google “Blockchain for Dummies” and you will get a nice explanation by IBM and other authors of Blockchain.

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News Brief: MyDec Required for All Cook County Property Transfers

CLICK HERE to download a full version of the notice.

Effective January 21, 2019, prior to recording, all Cook County property conveyance instruments must be accompanied by an electronically-completed Cook County Real Estate Transfer Tax Declaration, aka, a "MyDec," which can be completed via the Illinois Department of Revenue's MyDec Transfer Tax Portal - https://mytax.illinois.gov/mydec. The requirement to use MyDec is already in effect for all property transfers in the City of Chicago, and is being extended to all property in Cook County, including "exempt" and "non-exempt" transfers.

We encourage you to contact our office with any questions or concerns.

Remembering Doug Karlen

By Robert C. Strybel
Vice President & Senior National Commercial Counsel
Chicago Title Insurance Company, NCS Chicago

I had the pleasure of working with Doug Karlen for the better part of twenty years. I benefitted greatly from his vast title knowledge, his almost encyclopedic memory, and his ability – usually safely within company parameters – of finding creative solutions to the most-complex of title issues.

As much as I valued the insight and expertise he so readily shared, what I cherish most is remembering Doug not just as a colleague or a mentor, but as a friend.

For a number of years – first at Clark Street and later at 10 South LaSalle – Doug was a regular at our lunch table, which featured an ever-evolving cast of underwriters, management and staff. While no one would confuse us with the Algonquin Round Table, we prided ourselves on occasionally solving a world problem or two – even if it only related to the Cubs’ bullpen.

To be sure, there was a steady stream of title talk, but topics ran the gamut: music, sports, history, current events – little was off-limit. (A running joke: “Politics is too divisive. Let’s talk about religion instead.”) I learned of Doug’s passion for classical music and opera – he was a regular at the Lyric, and would share his thoughts and critiques on the latest performances. Would that his appreciation rubbed off on me; after I butchered the operatic origins of the musical “Rent,” I was lucky not to be banished.

As was Doug’s way, he rarely sought to be the center of attention. Instead, like the good teacher that he was, Doug often would get the discussion started simply by throwing out a question - “So … what’s this I’m reading about a new court case/news story/title memo?” – knowing the table would run with it.

Speaking of memos: the lunch room also was where I was introduced to Doug’s prescience in handling memos and bulletins.  “The Karlen Rule” dictated that such missives should be held from distribution for three days, in anticipation of receipt of the inevitable revision.

Doug had a sharp sense of humor; dry, occasionally biting, but never offensive. This also was reflected in his writing – thoughtful and detailed, but with enough wit to keep a reader’s attention. “Title Granny” is pure Doug: who else could deliver such a concise synopsis of title insurance in such an amusing manner? That was Doug’s gift – the ability to explain the arcane (and frequently mundane) in a way even his Bubbe could understand.

Doug’s writing skills also made him an excellent sounding-board for my own efforts. I had the good fortune of co-authorizing a paper with him – admittedly more his work than mine – and his comments to my input were detailed and constructive.

That Doug could accomplish all this, despite his nearly life-long low vision, speaks volumes of his determination. For those who only knew Doug from emails and phone calls, you may never have known the efforts he put in to simply reading a title report or a court case. And that was how Doug wanted it – he refused to be defined or limited by his disability.

At his retirement dinner last year, Doug urged those gathered to be compassionate, and generous with both time and knowledge – to be a “mensch;” that is, a good human being. In word and in deed, Doug was a true mensch – and there’s no need to wait three days for everyone to know that.

Endorsement Handbook

The latest version of Chicago Title's Endorsement Handbook is now available to download!  The basic coverages provided by the standard American Land Title Association (“ALTA”) title insurance policies address many of the most common title insurance needs. Often, however, certain insureds or certain aspects of a specific real estate transaction raise special concerns. By requesting an endorsement to the title insurance policy, an Insured owner or lender may be able to receive insurance against the risk of suffering loss or damage by reason of a particular matter that is beyond the coverage of the standard policy jacket.

This handbook is intended to serve as an introduction for our customers to the most commonly requested title insurance endorsements. It contains a brief commentary introduction to each endorsement followed by the text of each such endorsement

Click HERE to download a copy!

Karlen’s Korner Special Edition: Looking for State Tax Liens

By Douglas M. Karlen
Regional Counsel (Retired)
Chicago Title Insurance Company

Click HERE to download the article.

Q: How do you find a state tax lien?

A: You could look it up—on the State Tax Lien Registry.

Q: What the heck is the State Tax Lien Registry?

A: Well, . . . see Public Act 100-22.

Public Act 100-22 (SB 9, the budget and revenue bill), among many other things, creates the State Tax Lien Registration Act, codified at 35 ILCS 750/1-1 et seq. The Act is intended to establish a statewide filing system for notices of lien in favor of and enforced by the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR). See 35 ILCS 750/1-5. This statewide filing system is an internet-based state tax lien registry to be operated and maintained by IDOR. IDOR will file all notices of state tax liens in the registry, and it will no longer file notices of state tax liens with county recorders. This portion of P.A. 100-22 is effective January 1, 2018.

IDOR must file notice of a state tax lien in the state tax lien registry within 3 years of the date on which final tax liability is determined. 35 ILCS 750/1-10. By filing the notice in the registry, IDOR perfects a lien that immediately attaches to all property (including real property) owned by the debtor (that is, the delinquent taxpayer) as of the date of filing or acquired thereafter. 35 ILCS 750/1-20. The lien takes priority from the filing date and remains enforceable for 20 years from the filing date. 35 ILCS 750/1-25. Thus, a state tax lien filed in the state tax lien registry will affect real property in exactly the same manner as state tax liens currently filed in the offices of county recorders. There is, however, one difference; liens appearing in the registry will encumber all of the debtor’s property located anywhere within the State of Illinois—not, as under current law, just in the county in which the lien is recorded.

When IDOR files a notice of state tax lien in the state tax lien registry, IDOR must include in the notice:

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NCS News Brief: State Lien Registration Act

Click HERE to download the memo below.

Effective January 1, 2018 Public Act 100-22 (SB9) (“Act”) authorized the Illinois Department of Revenue (“IDOR”) to provide a uniform statewide system for the filing of notices for state tax liens. IDOR will now maintain an online database for the filing of state tax liens for real and personal property, tangible and intangible, against parties with unpaid final state tax liabilities.

The Act also does not invalidate any prior lien recorded with a county recorder in Illinois prior to the effective date of the Act, however, the IDOR will no longer be recording its liens or releases with local county recorders. Instead, the IDOR will now maintain its own searchable lien registry to file state tax liens in their online database.

Whenever Chicago Title is searching property for the purpose of issuing commitments or policies, a search will be conducted on the Illinois State Tax Lien Registry (STLR) which will be found at http://tax.illinois.gov. The link to the STLR will appear in the left column on this page under “Lien Registry”. Questions regarding the internal workings of the STLR can be sent to rev.lien@illinois.gov.

Chicago Title Attorney Agents should be aware that all search packages provided to them for examination will contain an additional search page(s) to cover items filed in the IDOR online database.

The State Tax Lien Registry (“STLR”) was effective and online as of January 1, 2018.

A notice of tax lien registered in the STLR on or after December 1, 2017 will be a lien upon all property owned by the taxpayer in the State of Illinois, without any further requirement of recording in any specific county.

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NCS News Brief: New 2016 ALTA Commitment for Title Insurance

Download MEMO below and New 2016 ALTA Commitment HERE.

As of October 15, 2017, all Chicago Title offices in the State of Illinois are now issuing the 2016 ALTA commitment form adopted by ALTA.  This is a nationwide ALTA standard.  In states where you have not already been seeing this form, you will in the near future.  The use of the commitment has not changed in any fundamental way, but does contain certain revisions and important clarification regarding the obligations of all parties. 

On the first page of the new commitment, you will see at the top of the form that a new NOTICE provision has been incorporated as part of the commitment.  This NOTICE provision sets forth in the first paragraph that this ALTA commitment is only an offer to issue a title insurance policy and nothing more.  In addition, all claims under the commitment must be based solely in contract law.  In other words, the commitment is really just the initial step in the formation of a binding contract, that being the title insurance policy.

The second paragraph of the NOTICE provision states that the “commitment is not an abstract of title, report of the condition of title, legal opinion, opinion of title, or other representation of the status of title.”  Essentially the title commitment is not to be seen as an informational product and not a reflection as to the state of title, but rather a limitation on the obligation of the Title Company to that of issuing a policy.

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How Residential Surveys Affect Title Insurance and the Closing Process

To download the article, click HERE.

Surveys are an important part of both residential and commercial real estate transactions, both to the parties involved in the transaction and the title company insuring the land. Surveys provide many important pieces of information needed for the closing including, but not limited to, confirming the correct property is being sold or mortgaged and insured; confirming the dimensions of the property; showing any easements of record such as for utilities and access; and showing any encroachments that affect the property. Parties to the transaction rely on surveys, and the title company reviews them to confirm any exceptions of record are properly platted against the property along with any easements.

There are several types of surveys typically used, depending on the nature of the transaction. The most common surveys are as follows:

  • A Boundary Survey is acceptable for residential transactions as it accurately locates the boundaries of the land in question.
  • A Land Title/ ALTA Survey is acceptable for commercial transactions as it conforms to standards adopted by the American Land Title Association (referred to as an “ALTA” survey) and done to exacting requirements.
  • A Condominium Survey is surveying cubes of air, dimensions bound by floors, ceilings and walls of the living space. A condominium plat is part of the condominium declaration. A survey is not needed for subsequent transfers for a condominium unit as the original plat of survey for the condominium is attached to the recorded Declaration.

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