Thursday, August 22, 2013

My advice in working with Fidelity National Title

Having heard of many other stories of Fidelity National Title other than mine they all have many things in common.

First, I believe all lenders require that title insurance be purchased.  And I believe that if there is a problem and you need to open a claim - there is a potential (probability) that there will be a problem with the coverage and the title insurance protecting your real estate investment.

If I were to use Fidelity National Title again (never) I would insist on sitting down with the most senior title officer available and I would go over every square inch of the preliminary title report.  I would record the conversation.  I would request copies of every public document mentioned in the preliminary title report and I would date stamp the day I received these and have the title officer sign and acknowledge that he/she gave them to me.  And whenever possible I would only communicate with both the escrow officer and the title officer in writing and I would keep a chronological copy of all communications.

In other words I would treat the escrow as the beginning of a potential lawsuit over some future error discovered in my title that is going to require me to file a claim with Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.

And although it was not my experience but others would advise that in the event your title needs to be defended in court  by Fidelity make sure that you are choosing your own attorney so that you are confident that they are representing you and your interests and not Fidelity National Title Insurance Company and their interests.

Should you use Fidelity National Title ????

Dear Ann, I came across your blog after doing a search for Nancy Vantassel - her name was on a long list of individuals that appear to be involved in your case. I am extremely concerned after reading something briefly about your complaints regarding an easement, etc. We are in contract with a property with an easement (and judgments to enforce the easement) and Nancy Vantassel at Fidelity was able to get a us a clean title when First American Title would not. I am of course concerned about the reliability of this title company (and whether they will continue to provide clean titles in the future) and wonder what I should do next - walk away from this perfect property (great even with easements) or inquire with a different title company after the all the concerns you have raised! Without title insurance, we can't get a loan . . . Any thoughts, advice, or other title company's would be so helpful to know at this time. Many thanks. Best regards,

"My advise would be - if you love the property - buy it.  But definitely sit down with the title officer - where is the property??  I would talk to the most senior person you possibly can who works for Fidelity.  Be firm and honest and tell them about this blog.  I have heard from many people (all of which feel that Fidelity did not adequately represent them) and in almost all instances it is about easements.

So get everything - absolutely everything - in writing from them.  Accept no verbal communication.  Let them know that you are extremely concerned about how they are actually going to "insure" you in the future."

Friday, August 9, 2013

Phillips Lytle Attorneys at Law - New York State

A reader provided this firm as another law firm that apparently has worked for Fidelity National Title in the New York State area.  Here is the link to their information on the service they provide for insurance coverage.

Again - please feel free to send in the names of firms that were hired to represent you by Fidelity National Title and/or was representing Fidelity National Title.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Another Phone Call And Another Claim - Small World

The foundations are just being formed for the cottages at this new Zen Center here in Northern California - a project that I have been working on for more than a year.  And I just received a phone call from someone there - not about the design or construction - but because he had found this blog due to them having a problem with the title on the new Zen Center.  Needless to say since I was just up there a week ago - the last thing he expected to find was that I, too, had a problem with a claim with Fidelity National Title.
Hopefully I will be able to help them get this matter resolved a lot more quickly and a lot less painfully than my own claim with Fidelity National Title Insurance Company!!!

I am so happy to hear the contractor is starting the foundations on the cottages - as excited as I am to see them go up - I confess I am more excited about the timber framing coming from Japan for the temple.  I am very proud to have been able to work on this project and look forward to working with all of you on the design of the main meeting center in the future.

Needless to say it is a very small world that you happened to find my blog on my experience with Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.  And it was very disconcerting to learn that you, too, are having an issue on the property in XXXXX with an easement that crosses the Zen Center’s property that was not disclosed to you in the title report.  And the resulting proposed settlement of $500 from the appraiser in Connecticut on a property here in Northern California - well I cannot help but think that he is not familiar with the area.  (Considering the additional freight bill we just had to send you required by Caltrans is almost that amount.........................)
As handling a dispute with Fidelity is about as far away from the mission of the Zen Center as one can possibly get - I am glad that you called me.  As I spent five very long years and thousands of dollars trying to resolve my claim with Fidelity my suggestion would be to contact David Saag who is the Western Region Senior Vice President and Chief Claims Counsel immediately and ask him to oversee this claim so that you can receive a fair, just and speedy resolution of this matter.  In my experience trying to work with the assigned claims counsel is not productive and you will most likely bounce from one person to another.

I am copying Mr. Saag on this email in hopes that he can quickly intercede on your behalf and get this resolved so that we can all get back to the work of getting the new Center built and in use for its intended purpose.

Ann Zollinger


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kreise Enderle Attorneys at Law

After one of my reader's posts this afternoon on this law firm handling 150 cases a year for Fidelity National Title,  I went searching on the internet and found this information on Kreise Enderle Attorneys at Law:

Insurance defense
In our comprehensive insurance defense practice, we represent clients including:
Automobile insurance carriers in no-fault coverage disputes and motor vehicle negligence claims
General liability insurers in premises liability and general liability claims

Title companies in real estate disputes and title claims
Our insurance defense attorneys provide effective strategies to reduce your claim costs.  

Whenever I read things like this it always raises questions.  First, what exactly is "comprehensive insurance defense practice"??
It does say specifically that they represent Title Companies (such as Fidelity National Title Insurance Company I assume) in real estate disputes and title claims.  Am I correct in my understanding that they represent Fidelity and not the insured??  And is this with third party disputes and claims?  And, if so, why would they then not represent the insured??
"Our insurance defense attorneys provide effective strategies to reduce your claims costs."
 Oh boy.  Am I reading this correctly that Kreise Enderle's job is to reduce the claims costs by coming up with a strategy to not pay claims????
It sure does not look with these statements that they are looking out for the interests of the insured - but rather looking out for the interest of the person employing them - their client - the title company.  Or am I reading this incorrectly??

If Fidelity National Title makes an error - do they defend your title??

So you all remember my blog post about the Maryland case involving Progressive Insurance??  In a nutshell Progressive hired an attorney who sat at the defense table trying to prove (unsuccessfully) that their dead client was at fault in her fatal automobile accident to get out of paying the claim.  When I heard about this I was beyond appalled but as I was in the middle of my own claim with Fidelity National Title Company et al - I felt there was a resonance of truth in this story.

In my particular case I believed I had an easement.  Fidelity confirmed they had made a mistake and there was no easement and opened a claim.  They valued the loss of the easement at $0 using an appraiser from a different state.  BUT apparently in the middle of the four year claim they discovered that the easement was valid (and did not tell me) and made no attempt to defend the easement.  Of course, I did not discover this fact until another two years later during discovery and by that time we were 24 hours away from the Settlement Conference and I no longer owned the property.

But what happens in the case that Fidelity makes an error and you need to go to court to retain your property rights against your neighbor??

From the Fidelity National Title website:

"How Does a Title Insurance Policy Protect Against All These Claims?
If a claim is made against your insured title, Fidelity National Title Insurance Company protects you by: (1) Defending your title, in court if necessary, at no cost to you, and (2) Bearing the cost of settling the case, if it proves valid, in order to protect your title and maintain your possession of your property."
Sounds great, doesn't it??  Please read this comment that was posted on my blog:
"The title company accepted the responsibility of the claim but mandated that the insured accept an outside hired attorney of the title company's choice to represent the insured.

However, what had become apparent in the process was that the title company was not acting in good faith for the responsibility of their error. But instead proceeded with action to legally eliminate their responsibility of the error by hiring an attorney to manipulate an outcome so that the title company would have little to no responsibility. After this was accomplished the title company then discontinued coverage and representation of the insured.

Even though this was "successfully" accomplished by the title company and their hired outside council. The title company remains accountable for the original error no matter what course of action the company took to minimize the damage of the original error made by the title company.

The insured continued to pursue the original issue with the title company and he received another letter. Only this time, from an "outside attorney" hired on "behalf" of the title company. This attorney actually had the audacity to issue a cease and desist notice on behalf of the title company."
So here is the question for today.  After making an error in your title policy and then defending that error in court and losing whether with an in house or outside attorney - doesn't Fidelity National Title Insurance Company still then owe you for your loss??
And if Fidelity National Title hires an attorney are they representing you, the insured, or like Progressive in the above example - are they representing the financial interests of Fidelity National Financial and its subsidiaries including Fidelity National Title Insurance Company??
The person who wrote to me felt that the outside attorney was not representing them but rather attempting to manipulate the outcome to alleviate the responsibility of Fidelity National Title - just as the attorney for Progressive was trying to prove their dead client was at fault.
When a person has a claim with Fidelity National Title Company or Fidelity National Title Insurance Company who is really there to represent the interests of the insured??  In my experience it was not the claims counsels as it was apparent that their interest was to represent the stockholders (themselves) of Fidelity National Financial.  And if you end up in court with a third party it appears from the stories that I have been told that again the attorney who is there is not to represent you, the insured, but rather Fidelity National Title Company. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How does FideltyNational Title Treat People During the Claims Process??

Another two hour conversation yesterday.  I have now had numerous conversations with people who were involved in the claims process with Fidelity National Title.  The specifics of the claims are all slightly different but the similarities are remarkably the same.

1)  Every individual I have talked to has felt frustrated, very angry and that they were not being treated fairly or as valued customers.  Class action, fraud, bad faith and/or other choice words have been used singularly or in combinations.  (And the emphasis here is on choice words!!)
2)  Every individual has in some way - frequently by Fidelity National Title like I was - had it acknowledged that they had a valid claim.  Some like myself actually had the claim opened for them by Fidelity and/or had the claim acknowledged as valid in a letter.
3)  Every individual was attempting to settle or was involved with the Claims Department for years.  I would guess the average time to be four years.
4)  Every individual thought at the beginning of the claims process that the Claims Counsel was there to help them and/or to represent their (the insured's) interest but slowly over time learned that the Claims Counsel appeared to represent the financial interest of Fidelity National Title above the interest in protecting their property rights.  (And here I should clarify - not one person I spoke to felt that they received a fair and equitable settlement - not even close.  Compounding this for most was the tens and hundreds of hours the claimants had to work to procure any kind of a settlement - and this time was universally not acknowledged financially.) (In my particular case by the time court, attorney and appraisal fees were paid - I received nothing for my loss and about 10 cents an hour for the time I spent pursuing the claim opened on my behalf by Fidelity.)
5)  Every individual had multiple Claims Counsels assigned to their claim. So far the fewest I have heard is three (and that person has still not settled their claim) but six seems to be a common number.
6)  Individuals have spent between $50,000 and $300,000 or more to settle their claims with Fidelity National Title.

The other common thread which is the purpose of this blog is "How do we keep this horrible situation from happening to others?"  I do not have the answer to that question.  One difficulty is that I have spoken to/or heard from clients of Fidelity National Title from more than a dozen states.  But I believe that using our First Amendment rights and communicating the facts of what occurred during our claims to inform and educate others is at least a step in the right direction.

Additionally, I have been trying to learn more of how title insurance claims work by talking to others and researching the process on the internet.

Some important questions that arose from my experience include:

Why is your escrow handled by Fidelity National Title Company and your property is insured by Fidelity National Title Insurance Company?

Is this why the files and documents of the escrow and title search done by Fidelity National Title Company for that process not available to Fidelity National Title Insurance Company during the claims process?  (At least they were not available in my case.)

Why are the people who handle the claims attorneys?  And do these attorneys represent you as the claimant or the financial interests of Fidelity National Financial and its subsidiaries?

Are the claims counsels attorneys and really representing the financial success of Fidelity?  And then in the case of a lawsuit their phone logs, notes, emails, etc. are not available due to attorney/client privilege??  (At least they were not provided in my case.)

If they are indeed all separate companies why do all of their email addresses (from escrow officers to claims counsels) end in

Are the insured actually the clients/customers of the company??

Does the fact that Fidelity has an employee stock program create a conflict of interest in the paying of claims?  In other words if claims are not paid then the value of the stock increases, correct?

Oh, I could go on and on with question after question.  I obviously have a lot more research to do on how title insurance companies handle the claims of the insured.