The Texas Department of Insurance announced it fined an Arlington company $150,000 for conducting the business of title insurance without authorization to do so. The fine against Ameristar Title and Errol V. Housmans represents the fourth largest penalty levied by the department for a title violation.
The violation stems from an arrangement between Title Texas, a licensed title company, and Stewart B. Hoge, a licensed fee attorney, in which Hoge contracted out various title services to Ameristar Title Management Ltd., which was not licensed to perform title insurance business. Employees of Ameristar, owned by Errol V. Housmans, performed services such as closing transactions, signing commitments and escrow checks. As such Ameristar engaged in the unauthorized practice of insurance, a violation of the Texas Insurance Code.
In addition, the escrow officer’s applications misrepresented the employment status of the applicants, in that the applications asserted the applicants were bona fide employees of a licensed attorney (Hoge), when in fact they were employees of Ameristar.
Title insurance is subject to strict regulation in Texas. Title agents and escrow officers must be licensed and are subject to strict reporting requirements. The department is continuing to investigate the other parties involved.
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