In the terminology of the escrow industry, all escrow agents performing escrow services in California are either “licensed” or “controlled” escrow companies. A "licensed" escrow company, which is also known as an “independent” escrow company, is licensed by the Department of Business Oversight. This license can only be obtained after the escrow company has met and satisfied all of the licensing requirements set forth by the Escrow Law, which are enforced by the Department of Business Oversight. A "controlled" escrow, which may be known as a “non-independent” escrow, is not licensed by the Department of Business Oversight. A controlled escrow could be owned and operated by, but is not limited to, an attorney, a real estate broker, a title insurance company, among others. The licensing and regulation of controlled escrows depends on the jurisdiction of the licensing and regulatory authority; therefore, the licensing requirements, laws, and regulations that they are subject to vary widely.
The following agencies can assist you when inquiring about the licensing status of an escrow:
- For title insurance/underwritten title companies performing controlled escrows, contact the California Department of Insurance at (800) 927-HELP or go to www.insurance.ca.gov.
- For real estate broker controlled escrows, contact the Bureau of Real Estate at (877) 373-4542 or go to www.dre.ca.gov.
- For attorney controlled escrows, contact the State Bar of California at (800) 843-9053 or go to www.calbar.ca.gov.
- For controlled escrows handled by federally-chartered banks or federally-chartered savings and loan associations, contact the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency at (800) 613-6743 or go to www.occ.gov.
- For controlled escrows handled by state-chartered savings and loan associations or state-chartered savings banks, contact the Division of Financial Institutions at (800) 622-0620 or go to www.dbo.ca.gov.
- For independent escrow companies, contact the Department of Business Oversight at (866) ASK-CORP or search our licensee listing.
If your escrow company is not licensed by the Department of Business Oversight and is not regulated by one of the governmental agencies listed above, contact the Department of Business Oversight at 1(866) ASK CORP or 1(866) 275-2677. The company may be engaging in unlicensed escrow activity.
- What action can the department take against escrow agents that fail to comply with the escrow law and regulations?
The activities of an escrow agent are highly regulated for the protection of members of the public who entrust their funds to these companies. The owners of a company are responsible for the actions of the managers and employees. The escrow agent's operations are subject to the provisions of the California Financial Code and the California Code of Regulations. Failure to comply with these laws and rules can result in administrative action being taken that can range from a Desist and Refrain order to the Department taking possession of the company. The Department may assess penalties for late filing of reports, or bar an individual from any position of employment or other association with a licensed escrow agent, subject to appropriate administrative procedures. The Department can also pursue criminal and civil sanctions where it is appropriate.
- How Do I File a Complaint Against a Mortgage Banker, Finance Company, Mortgage Loan Originator, Escrow Comany, Payday Lender or Check Seller?
You may only file a complaint against one of the above companies or mortgage loan originators if they are licensed by the Department of Business Oversight. In order to determine if a company is licensed by the Department of Business Oversight you may call us or search through the Licensee Listing. In order to determine if a mortgage loan originator is licensed by the Department of Business Oversight please review the NMLS Consumer Access website.
The Department of Business Oversight's toll-free telephone number for determining license status is (866) 275-2677. You may call this number to discuss your problem and determine if your concern is an issue over which the Department has jurisdiction. Once it is determined that your complaint falls within our jurisdiction, a complaint form will be sent to you, or you may download the complaint form from our website. When we receive the completed form, we contact the company and request the information and documents needed to complete an independent review of the complaint. The Department also requires the licensee involved to investigate and respond to both you and the Department regarding the concerns raised in the complaint.
Please keep in mind that as an administrative agency, the Department's authority is limited. We cannot litigate on your behalf, or act as your attorney. If the circumstances of your complaint require legal action, you may wish to consult an attorney. If the matter already involves litigation, the Department will generally not issue a letter of findings to you. However, the complaint will be reviewed on a confidential basis and any appropriate action will be taken.