The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act's (RESPA) Section 9 (12 U.S.C. §2608) and Regulation X (§ 3500.16) prohibits, either directly or indirectly, a seller from requiring a purchaser to buy title insurance from a specific title company in any transaction as a condition of the sale.
Section 9 of RESPA (12 U.S.C. §2608) states that:
1. No seller of property that will be purchased with the assistance of a federally related mortgage loan shall require directly or indirectly, as a condition to selling the property, that title insurance covering the property be purchased by the buyer from any particular title company.
2. Any seller who violates the provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall be liable to the buyer in an amount equal to three times all charges made for such title insurance.
The only way a Seller can mandate that purchaser use a particular title company is if the seller paid 100% of all title insurance and related title costs. HUD's RESPA Division has stated on numerous occasions that unless the seller pays 100% of the title related costs then the seller has violated RESPA. REO companies need to pay particular attention to Section 9 because required use practices by REO companies are on the HUD's radar right now.
Additionally there are several local real estate purchase agreements that are in use in parts of the United States where the language in the purchase contract states that Seller picks the title company but purchaser pays for title costs. It should be clearly noted that you can not contract out of a RESPA Section 9 violation. Just because the purchase agreement is signed by the borrower doesn't prohibit the borrower from coming back and suing the seller for required use if the borrower is stuck with any of the title related fees.
Lastly another clever technique that is in use is where the seller says they will pay for the owner's title insurance policy but that purchaser has to pay for the lender's title insurance policy and all other costs. This does not pass the smell test nor does it pass HUD's smell test. The practice while novel in its approach is still considered a Section 9 violation. If you are a borrower has been a victim of this technique within the last year please give our firm a call.