About the Escrow Law

The Escrow Law is contained in Division 6 (commencing with Section 17000) of the California Financial Code . The regulations are contained in Subchapter 9, Title 10, California Code of Regulations commencing with Section 1700 (10 C.C.R. § 1700, et seq.).

The Escrow Law protects members of the public who entrust their money or other assets to independent escrow agents in California. Escrow agents, joint control agents and Internet escrow agents are subject to the provisions of the Escrow Law.

 

Who is Required to Obtain a License

The Department of Business Oversight licenses and regulates escrow agents, joint control agents and Internet escrow agents in California. The definitions in the Escrow Law determine who is subject to the licensing requirements of the law.

Persons or companies performing escrow services over the Internet in California, or performing escrow services over the Internet for consumers in California, are subject to the licensing requirements of the Escrow Law. See Press Release No. 00-13 on the Department's website for information regarding the enforcement of these licensing requirements.

Finally, the Escrow Law defines "escrow" as "any transaction wherein one person, for the purpose of effecting the sale, transfer, encumbering, or leasing of real property to another person, delivers any written instrument, money, evidence of title to real or personal property, or other thing of value to a third person to be held by such third person until the happening of a specified event or the performance of a prescribed condition, when it is then to be delivered by such third person to a grantee, grantor, promisee, promisor, obligee, obligor, bailee, bailor, or any agent or employee of any of the latter."

 

Who is Exempt from Licensing Requirements of the Escrow Law

  1. Any person doing business under any law of this state or the United States relating to banks, trust companies, building and loan or savings and loan associations, or insurance companies.
  2. Any person licensed to practice law in California who has a bona fide client attorney relationship with a principal in a real estate or personal property transaction and who is not actively engaged in the business of an escrow agent.
  3. Any person whose principal business is that of preparing abstracts or making searches of title that are used as a basis for the issuance of a policy of title insurance by a company doing business under any law of this state relating to insurance companies.
  4. Any real estate broker licensed by the Real Estate Commissioner while performing acts in the course of or incidental to a real estate transaction in which the broker is an agent or a party to the transaction and in which the broker is performing an act for which a real estate license is required.

The exemptions provided for in paragraphs 2 and 4 are personal to the persons listed, and those persons may not delegate any duties other than duties performed under the direct supervision of those persons. The exemptions provided for in paragraphs 2 and 4 are not available for any arrangement entered into for the purpose of performing escrow for more than one business.

The Escrow Law provides that the burden of proving an exemption is upon the person claiming it.