Chapter 1. Application Of This Division of California Financial Code >> Division 6. >> Chapter 1.
This division is known and may be cited as the "Escrow Law."
Unless the context otherwise requires, the definitions set
forth in this chapter govern the construction of this division.
"Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Business Oversight.
"Person" means, in addition to the singular, persons,
group of persons, co-operative, association, company, firm,
partnership, corporation, limited liability company, or other legal
(a) "Escrow" means any transaction in which one person, for
the purpose of effecting the sale, transfer, encumbering, or leasing
of real or personal property to another person, delivers any written
instrument, money, evidence of title to real or personal property, or
other thing of value to a third person to be held by that third
person until the happening of a specified event or the performance of
a prescribed condition, when it is then to be delivered by that
third person to a grantee, grantor, promisee, promisor, obligee,
obligor, bailee, bailor, or any agent or employee of any of the
(b) With regard to Internet escrow companies, "escrow" also
includes any transaction in which one person, for the purpose of
effecting the sale or transfer of personal property or services to
another person, delivers money, or its Internet-authorized
equivalent, to a third person to be held by that third person until
the happening of a specified event or the performance of a prescribed
condition, when it is then to be delivered by that third person to a
grantee, grantor, promisee, promisor, obligee, obligor, bailee,
bailor, or any agent or employee of any of the latter.
"Escrow agent" means any person engaged in the business of
receiving escrows for deposit or delivery.
"Internet escrow agent" means any person engaged in the
business of receiving escrows for deposit or delivery over the
"Licensee" means any person holding a valid, unrevoked
license as an escrow agent.
"Joint control agent" means a person engaging in the
business of receiving money or other property for disbursal or use in
payment of the cost of labor, materials, services, permits, fees, or
other items of expense incurred in the construction of improvements
upon real property. As used in this section, "in the business" means
the conduct of the aforesaid transaction either for compensation or
without compensation as a primary business or as an incidence to
another business, but shall not mean the conduct of the business of
real estate lending or of acting as an authorized representative,
agent or loan correspondent for such a lender.
"Business location" and "business office location" mean a
facility or other place of business where a person engages in the
business of receiving an escrow for deposit or delivery, but does not
include a customer contact center.
"Customer contact center" means a facility operated by an
Internet escrow agent that exists solely for the purpose of
responding to customer electronic messages and telephone inquiries;
provided, that no receipt or disbursements relating to an escrow are
made from the facility; and provided further, that any documentation
or other material generated, transmitted, or otherwise sent from the
facility can be reviewed at any time from the business location of
the Internet escrow agent.
"Person subject to this division" means any person
undertaking the performance of escrow agent services. Unless
specifically exempted, as in Section 17006, however, this definition
shall not be used to exclude anyone.
"Within this state" means any activity of a person
relating to receiving escrows for deposit or delivery that originates
from this state and is directed to persons outside this state, or
that originates from outside this state and is directed to persons
inside this state, or that originates inside this state and is
directed to persons inside this state, or that leads to the formation
of a contract and the offer or acceptance thereof is directed to a
person in this state, whether from inside or outside this state and
whether the offer was made inside or outside this state.
Except as provided for in Section 17004, "escrow agent" as
used in this division includes joint control agents and Internet
(a) This division does not apply to:
(1) Any person doing business under any law of this state or the
United States relating to banks, trust companies, building and loan
or savings and loan associations, or insurance companies.
(2) Any person licensed to practice law in California who has a
bona fide client relationship with a principal in a real estate or
personal property transaction and who is not actively engaged in the
business of an escrow agent.
(3) Any person whose principal business is that of preparing
abstracts or making searches of title that are used as a basis for
the issuance of a policy of title insurance by a company doing
business under any law of this state relating to insurance companies.
(4) Any broker licensed by the Real Estate Commissioner while
performing acts in the course of or incidental to a real estate
transaction in which the broker is an agent or a party to the
transaction and in which the broker is performing an act for which a
real estate license is required.
(b) The exemptions provided for in paragraphs (2) and (4) of
subdivision (a) are personal to the persons listed, and those persons
shall not delegate any duties other than duties performed under the
direct supervision of those persons. Notwithstanding the provisions
of this subdivision, the exemptions provided for in paragraphs (2)
and (4) of subdivision (a) are not available for any arrangement
entered into for the purpose of performing escrows for more than one
In any proceeding under this law, the burden of proving an
exemption or an exception from a definition is upon the person
No foreign corporation shall transact any escrow business in
this State without first complying with all the requirements of this
division, nor until it has executed and filed with the commissioner
a written instrument appointing the commissioner its attorney upon
whom all process in any action or proceeding by any resident of this
State against it may be served with the same force and effect as if
such corporation were formed under the laws of this State, and had
been lawfully served with process in this State. Service of process
by a resident of this State upon the commissioner constitutes
personal service on the foreign corporation.
The commissioner shall forward by prepaid registered mail a
copy of every paper served under this chapter, to the secretary of
the corporation at its last known post-office address as shown by the
records and reports of the corporation filed in the office of the
The commissioner shall collect from the plaintiff at the
time of service, the sum of two dollars ($2) for each copy of process
served on him pursuant to this chapter. This sum shall be recovered
by the plaintiff as part of his taxable costs, if he succeeds in the
suit or proceeding.