357 S.E.2d 15 (S.C. 1987), 22730, State v. Buyers Service Co., Inc.
|Citation:||357 S.E.2d 15, 292 S.C. 426|
|Opinion Judge:||Per Curiam:|
|Party Name:||STATE of South Carolina, Appellant-Respondent, v. BUYERS SERVICE COMPANY, INC., Respondent-Appellant.|
|Attorney:||Atty. Gen. T. Travis Medlock and Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen. Richard B. Kale, Jr., Columbia, for appellant-respondent. Ray L. Derrick, of Funderburk and Derrick, Columbia, for respondent-appellant. Edward G. Menzie, of Nexsen, Pruet, Jacobs and Pollard, Columbia, amicus curiae for South Carolina Bar.|
|Case Date:||June 01, 1987|
|Court:||Supreme Court of South Carolina|
Heard Jan. 20, 1987.
[292 S.C. 427] Atty. Gen. T. Travis Medlock and Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen. Richard B. Kale, Jr., Columbia, for appellant-respondent.
Ray L. Derrick, of Funderburk and Derrick, Columbia, for respondent-appellant.
Edward G. Menzie, of Nexsen, Pruet, Jacobs and Pollard, Columbia, amicus curiae for South Carolina Bar.
In this action the circuit court issued a declaratory judgment that Buyers Service Company, Inc. (Buyers Service) has illegally engaged in the practice of law. Additionally, Buyers Service was enjoined from performing future acts [292 S.C. 428] deemed to constitute the practice of law. We affirm in part and reverse in part.
Buyers Service is a commercial title company which also assists homeowners in purchasing residential real estate. Its principal place of business is Hilton Head Island.
The State brought this action alleging Buyers Service has engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by: (1) providing reports, opinions or certificates as to the status of titles to real estate and mortgage liens; (2) preparing documents affecting title to real property; (3) handling real estate closings; (4) recording legal documents at the courthouse; and (5) advertising to the public that it may handle conveyancing and real estate closings.
Buyers Service's clients are usually prospective home purchasers referred by local real estate agents. Its general procedures for handling a real estate transaction are as follows:
After a client is referred, Buyers Service receives an executed contract of sale from the realtor. If the sale involves a mortgage, the buyer makes an application to a local lender. If the lender approves the loan, it notifies Buyers Service and sends a letter of commitment to the buyer stating the terms. Buyers Service then orders the loan package from the lender. This consists of a set of instructions, a note and mortgage, truth in lending statement, HUD-1 Statement, miscellaneous affidavits regarding employment, and other forms. The documents arrive in various degrees of completion depending upon the particular lender. Buyers Service fills in the mortgagor-mortgagee on the mortgage, the grantor-grantee on the deed, consideration, the legal description and other blank spaces.
Buyers Service sends the completed forms to the purchaser for his examination and signature. Thereafter, the lender examines the loan package and funds the loan. Buyers Service deposits the loan proceeds check in its escrow account and disburses the funds according to the HUD-1 Statement and the closing instructions. Buyers Service also prepares settlement statements after loans are closed.
When a title search is necessary, Buyers Service sends an [292 S.C. 429] employee to the courthouse to abstract the title. The purchaser pays $50 for this service. The abstract is reviewed by a non-attorney employee who determines if the seller has fee simple title to the property. Buyers Service gives purchasers a fact sheet describing three ways to hold fee simple title in South Carolina. If a purchaser has questions, an employee of Buyers Service elaborates. The purchasers then tell Buyers Service how they wish to hold title.
Subsequent to the commencement of the litigation, Buyers Service retained an attorney to review its closing documents. The
attorney, whose name and charges appear on the settlement sheet, receives $35 for this service. Buyers Service pays this fee and passes it on to the purchaser. There is no direct contact between the attorney and the purchaser.
Buyers Service conducts...
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