(1) A title insurance agent may engage in business as an escrow agent as to funds received from others to be subsequently disbursed by the title insurance agent in connection with real estate closing transactions involving the issuance of title insurance binders, commitments, policies of title insurance, or guarantees of title, provided that a licensed and appointed title insurance agent complies with the requirements of s. 626.8417, including such requirements added after the initial licensure of the agent.
(2) All funds received by a title insurance agent as described in subsection (1) shall be trust funds received in a fiduciary capacity by the title insurance agent and shall be the property of the person or persons entitled thereto.
(3) All funds received by a title insurance agent to be held in trust shall be immediately placed in a financial institution that is located within this state and is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. These funds shall be invested in an escrow account in accordance with the investment requirements and standards established for deposits and investments of state funds in s. 17.57, where the funds shall be kept until disbursement thereof is properly authorized.
(4) Funds required to be maintained in escrow trust accounts pursuant to this section shall not be subject to any debts of the title insurance agent and shall be used only in accordance with the terms of the individual, escrow, settlement, or closing instructions under which the funds were accepted.
(5) The title insurance agents shall maintain separate records of all receipts and disbursements of escrow, settlement, or closing funds.
(6) In the event that the department promulgates rules necessary to implement the requirements of this section pursuant to s. 624.308, the department shall consider reasonable standards necessary for the protection of funds held in trust, including, but not limited to, standards for accounting of funds, standards for receipt and disbursement of funds, and protection for the person or persons to whom the funds are to be disbursed.
(7) A title insurance agent, or any officer, director, or employee thereof, or any person associated therewith as an independent contractor for bookkeeping or similar purposes, who converts or misappropriates funds received or held in escrow or in trust by such title insurance agent, or any person who knowingly receives or conspires to receive such funds, commits:
(a) If the funds converted or misappropriated are $300 or less, a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(b) If the funds converted or misappropriated are more than $300, but less than $20,000, a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(c) If the funds converted or misappropriated are $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000, a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(d) If the funds converted or misappropriated are $100,000 or more, a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
History.—s. 24, ch. 85-185; s. 1, ch. 86-286; s. 1, ch. 89-305; s. 134, ch. 90-363; s. 114, ch. 92-318; s. 3, ch. 98-409; s. 971, ch. 2003-261.