The role of the French Notaire is central to all French property transactions and is very different to the role of a UK solicitor.
At the expiry of the French property purchase cooling off period the estate agent will send the contract to the appointed Notaire to deal with the searches and the preparation of the final contract documentation.
Buyers who are familiar with the English system may be concerned that a single Notaire has been appointed to represent the vendor and purchaser, and they wonder whether or not they should appoint their own Notaire in France to assist them.
Notaires in France are public officials appointed by the Ministry of Justice and have their own system and practice that is distinctive from the other profession of avocat or even solicitors.
They are empowered to place the French State Seal on the deeds that they prepare. These deeds fall into a category of public documentation and are difficult to challenge.
They are automatically evidence of their origin and of the facts and statement they record. They are also recognised as evidence in court.
The public status or the authenticity of the Notarial French Act would be lost only if it is declared false by the court following the procedure known in France as Inscription de Faux.
The Notaire has also a duty of care towards his clients and cannot restrict his duty as a solicitor would do when agreeing the terms of his retainer with a client.
A Notaire can act for both parties in a transaction and his duty of care obliges him to be impartial or never favour one party.
Buyers are however free to appoint their own Notaire and will have to decide if they wish to get another Notaire involved in this transaction or rely on the Notaire appointed by the estate agent or vendor. NB Appointing an additional Notaire does not add to the transaction costs borne by the buyers.
Notaires are free to deal with properties anywhere in France and buyers could decide to appoint a Notaire even if he is not local.
A Notaire will be liable for any negligence occurring in relation to the documentation he prepares or the advice or lack of advice given.
The concept of inadequate professional service is not as developed or regulated as in the UK and Notaires will not incur any penalty if, for instance, they are slow and unable to organise their time in a diligent and professional manner.
In addition, Notaires are insured for the work that they carry out but there is also a professional guarantee provided by all members of this profession whereby all are personally liable for the work of their colleagues.
Notaires will also be alert to the possibility of their client using them to launder their money, which may expose them to offences.
The Financial and Monetary Act regulates French Money Laundering and Notaires, and they have a duty to report any suspicious source of money that may be transferred into their account.
To learn more about the work of the French Notaire go to the English section of the Notaires.Fr website.