Underwriting Underwriting

Expertise

The depth and breadth of title insurance underwriting knowledge available through our underwriters enables Stewart to consistently provide solutions specifically developed to meet your needs while maintaining the highest standards of accuracy and integrity. Working with this truly unique team gives you access to an amazing range of expertise.

Cadastral Laws and Regulations

Underwriting may include consideration of these laws that govern survey and valuation of real estate in a county, parish, region or country compiled for tax purposes. A cadastral register in many countries may include location, ownership, area and boundaries and use and valuation of land, and may exist in connection with title records.

Cogeneration Plants

A cogeneration plant is a facility that generates both heat and electricity. Issues include contiguity, survey, and mechanic’s lien coverage, ability to operate such plants under state law, and applicable loss endorsements, all of which can be underwritten by our seasoned underwriters.

Coinsurance and Reinsurance

Coinsurance with other title insurance companies means the act or two or more title insurance companies issuing separate title insurance policies with specific and occasionally different dollar liability insuring the same insured and the same interest in land. The underwriting involved typically requires working with the other title insurance companies to reach agreement on the exceptions and requirements and final form of the policy, including endorsements.

Reinsurance is the term given to the method used by insurance companies to spread the risk of loss to more than one company when an insurer issues an insurance policy on any single risk which exceeds the company’s retention limits. The issuing insurer, known as the “Ceder”, secures or purchases from other insurance companies, known as “Reinsurers”, a written agreement of indemnity, known as the “Reinsurance Agreement”, covering a portion or percentage of the insurance risks.

Construction Loans

Stewart Title has the ability to provide construction disbursing and specialized coverage in a number of jurisdictions.

Energy Leaseholds

Companies that extract oil and gas, geothermal and wind energy often operate under leases given by a single landowner or multiple landowners. The leases typically allow energy companies to construct drilling or turbine sites on the land and give them to the right to construct roads and lay pipes or power lines as is necessary.

Farm, Ranch and Timber

Farms, ranch, and timber properties have unique problems. Access to the land is frequently a problem that must be underwritten. In western states where water is so valuable, access by the public also can be a consideration. For example, recent litigation has involved public access to navigable waterways. Surveys become more very important because boundaries quite often are not clearly established or reference vague monuments. Minerals may also be a significant issue because of the concern that development will result in damage to the surface. Our underwriters are experienced in underwriting each of these issues.

Geothermal Leaseholds

These types of transactions involve the insurance of plants that produce electricity that’s generated from the Earth’s heat. The process is to convert heat into mechanical energy by turning a turbine, then connecting a generator that converts the mechanical energy into electricity. Geothermal plants are designed to run 24 hours a day, which makes them different than other renewable energy plants such as Solar and Wind. The geothermal fields require a vast amount of land, which may or may not always be in private ownership, requiring a separate search of the Bureau of Land Management Records. Our underwriters, who have extensive experience in insuring these transactions, can discuss site specific endorsements that fit your needs for the project.

Industrial

See also “Major Commercial”. These transactions involve non-residential and generally non-retail developments such as power plants, pipelines and pipeline terminals, oil and gas refineries, automobile factories, steel mills, and port facilities. Underwriting such a transaction typically involves a large investment of time and resources and often coinsurance or reinsurance; may include issues of environmental law, construction law, easements, licenses, permits, surveys, reciprocal easements, syndicates of lenders, etc. When insuring industrial sites where large sums are expended for improvements that may or may not be fixtures, the question of what the “amount of insurance” should be is often raised. Frequently, bond financing is used for industrial properties which bring on the issues common to other tax driven transactions.

Major Commercial Transactions

Generally, this includes any non-residential property. Examples of major commercial projects are shopping malls, casinos, office towers, power plants, hi-rise buildings, multi-use developments and ski and golf resorts; both domestic and international. Developing these projects is often expensive. Policies can be written for hundreds of millions of dollars and require the cooperation of multiple title insurers through reinsurance agreements. Stewart Title Guaranty Company or one of their subsidiaries can provide expert underwriting in all 50 states and numerous countries, and is readily accepted as one of the major title insurers by the major lenders. Our underwriters can assist you in insuring the rights applicable, including reciprocal easements, and issuing endorsements typically requested for these projects.

Multinational

Underwriting of a multinational transaction includes consideration of each nation’s land ownership laws, land titles recording systems, any laws governing title insurance, cultural characteristics, and bridging language differences. In addition, consideration must be given to form of policy, and jurisdiction for dispute resolution. Whether it is a cross-border transaction involving significant commercial foreign direct investment, a destination hotel and resort offering condominium development, fractional ownership or timeshare membership, a second vacation home, an industrial distribution center or commercial complex, a retail shopping mall, a stock exchange, a utility or wind energy generation facility or local residential home ownership in another country, Stewart’s multi-national underwriters have the experience necessary to underwrite titles in more than 80 countries worldwide.

Multi-Site

When a company has multiple properties, such as a chain of hotels or fast food restaurants, they may sell the properties or refinance them all as a part of a single transaction. Multiple site transactions often deal with properties in multiple states.

Native American Land

Underwriting includes the basics of determining the status of the land, confirming the persons authorized to execute closing documents, obtaining a search and examination of the appropriate Bureau of Indian Affairs or county land records, and obtaining Federal approvals for the transaction if needed. Unique considerations include the land interests which may be land in trust for a Tribe, land in trust for individual Native Americans, fee simple land within a reservation which may be owned by either Native Americans or non-Native Americans; the sale or purchase of fee simple land by Tribes or Tribal Entities; the defense of sovereign immunity that Tribes and Tribal Entities have; the applicability of the federal Indian Nonintercourse Act; and the possibility of specific federal acts and treaties applicable to a tribe.

Pipeline Transactions

Key issues in these transactions include underwriting for survey, contiguity and mechanic’s liens coverage. These transactions are very complex, and require our extensive underwriting experience in providing extended coverage.

Railroads

Underwriting a title involving a railroad line presents problems for the most experienced title professional, because not only did the railroads obtain their lands by different and often vague means, railroads often failed and were gobbled up by other railroads. The threshold considerations require a determination of the railroad’s source of title, the location of the railroad property using a system that may have no correlation to the Public Land Survey System, and the width of the railroad’s corridor, which may vary with the various authorizing Congressional Acts that are probably not in the county land records.

Right of Light

Also known as “right to light”, this right involves a landowner’s right to enjoyment of light and air which requires state specific analysis. Underwriting of right to light issues may arise in situations involving solar farms and the “right to light and solar access”, the right to develop land versus the right to light of the adjoining property, refusal of neighborhood/homeowner associations or architectural committees to approve property improvements involving solar collector plates, and violations of restrictive covenants that forbid rooftop structures. Because of the recognition of a right to light based on prescriptive use in the United Kingdom, specialized insurance against such claims is frequently provided by our underwriters.

Solar Farms

Underwriting typically involves the status of the land for the solar farm, as well as easements, for the transmission lines to connect to the grid, and financing for the solar cells or panels. This may also involve issues with Native American land, federal land (BLM), construction and mechanic lien law, tax credits, syndicates of investors and lenders, and unique endorsements. The farms are built with many clusters of solar arrays. Unlike wind farm deals, the solar arrays are typically placed near the ground, and thus mineral rights and other surface rights have to be dealt with in order to give title insurance coverage over these issues. Stewart Title has issued a series of endorsements to provide specialized coverage that meets the needs of the solar project.

Tax-Exempt Bond Financing Transactions Involving Government Entities

Governmental entities are often constricted in the way they can raise money for municipal projects. One way they obtain funds is through bond offerings to the public. These transactions are typically much more complexly structured than straight mortgaging of property.

Water Rights

Underwriting involves determining the ownership of water rights, typically groundwater rights or surface water rights. This includes the usual search of county land records from patent and any other state water rights records, as well as consideration of state water rights regulations.

Wetlands

Underwriting involves the issuance of insurance of title to land that abuts or is partially or totally covered by a body of water and presents unique problems and additional risk. Factors that may be applicable may include the navigability of the body of water, and laws relevant to surface, underground, and flood water as well as ditches, levees, irrigation, filled land, consideration of the application of the riparian and appropriation doctrines, and rules of accretion, reliction, avulsion, and erosion.

Wind Projects

Wind energy is one of the fastest growing forms of renewable energy. Title insurance transactions involving wind farms are usually very complex, primarily due to the vast amounts of land that are needed for the turbine fields and lateral easements. Stewart Title has created a series of endorsements to address the needs of the lender and the owner of the wind project, and its underwriters can assist you in modifying coverage to meet the specific needs of your wind project.