How to settle a dispute with a notary? Client redress and notary checks

Updated on Monday 16 April 2018

The notary chosen by a client is obliged to be loyal. Its integrity, rigor, professional secrecy and duty to advise lead to regular checks carried out under the authority of the Public Prosecutor.


What can I expect from my notary as a client?

As a public officer, delegate of the State, the notary is subject to many specific obligations. Compliance with these obligations, and the general duty to apply laws and regulations, is ensured through specific disciplinary law. A notary is personally liable for all of its professional activity.

The notary is subject to a duty of integrity and rigor with regard to legal requirements, mainly the one of authenticity. He is responsible for the content, form and preservation of the acts he writes. Of course, he has a duty to advise his client.

The notary is subject to professional secrecy: the confidences which are revealed to the notary, a public officer, through the exercise of functions must under no circumstances be revealed by him. In addition to the penal and disciplinary sanctions which could be operated against the notary, he is also exposed to damages. The notary is bound by a duty of information: the client expects his notary to explain the various options at his disposal but also the consequences of the acts he shall sign.

This duty of advice implies neutrality and impartiality: the notary chosen by a client has an obligation of loyalty towards him, but also towards other co-contracting parties.

What checks does a notary go through?

By virtue of his status and the nature of the relationships he maintains with clients, the notary is subject to strict professional rules and controls. These relate both to being rigorous with legal activity and the maintenance of accounts.

In order to ensure a rigorous check through the way which notaries carry out their activity and to assess the genuine situation, each office is subject to an unannounced inspection at least once a year. This inspection covers both the legal treatment of cases and the rigorous nature of the office's accounting. These inspections lead to the establishment of a report submitted simultaneously to the President of the Disciplinary Chamber but also to the Public Prosecutor.

There are two types of inspectors:

  • the one hand, the "notary-inspectors" who practice outside of the inspected notaries department (in order to avoid the partiality that could result from being too close)
  • On the other hand, accountants inspectors (accountants, statutory auditors etc..)

These inspectors possess major powers of investigation. If they notice any mismanagements, they must immediately notify the disciplinary bodies of the profession and the judicial authorities.

In order to guarantee perfect transparency and impartiality, these inspectors are penally responsible for the rigorous nature of their inspections. In terms of the research inspection in the departments of Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and research located within the jurisdiction of the Saint-Denis Court of Appeal, designating inspectors are subject to specific rules provided for by the decree dated 2 May 2O17.

What is the notary’s responsibility?

Notarial ethics are the foundation of the notarial practice which builds the trust that their clients lay in them. It brings together a set of fundamental values: duties and obligations. These are defined in the National Regulations of Notaries which includes some general provisions.

Civil responsibility

Any negligence on behalf of the notary, while drafting the acts and the checks it must carry out, may result in its liability being called into question. In order to be able to confront this liability, the profession has a dual guarantee mechanism: professional liability insurance and a collective guarantee. Get more information about the notary’s civil liability.

Penal responsibility

It is likely to be engaged in particular if the notary has knowingly noted inaccurate facts. He is then likely to be accused of "forgery in public writing".

Disciplinary liability

Unlike criminal proceedings, which assumes an offense provided for and sanctioned by a text, disciplinary liability is admissible for all breaches concerning ethical rules.

The disciplinary sanction is independent from the criminal action. The disciplinary body is the disciplinary chamber or the court depending on how serious the breaches are.

What to do if I am not satisfied by my notary?

Before filing a complaint, try to clarify the problem with the notary.

If the latter acknowledges having made a mistake, the notary shall open a liability insurance file, so that your case is examined in detail by an insurer.

If the notary does not answer or if its answer does not satisfy you, you can use:

The notarial mediator

By filing a mediation request with the consumer mediator of the notary. A European directive dated May 21, 2013, transposed into our law by an ordinance dated August 20, 2015, establishes for all consumers "a right to utilize a consumer-mediator, free of charge with the aim to find an amicable resolution of the dispute, opposing with the professional".

The President of the departmental chamber of notaries

(To be performed via mail). He has the power to obtain all the required information about your case, in order to make sure that the case has been handled. The President of the departmental chamber must give you an answer.

In order to obtain their contact details, simply consult the list of chambers of notaries. If you’re not satisfied by the latter, you can always contact the Public Prosecutor.