Legislation should be introduced to ensure property buyers are given timely redress if they get defrauded by their notaries, the Malta Notarial Council has said.
Lovin Malta reached out to the Notarial Council after a property buyer opened up about how she’s been left in limbo after discovering in late 2019 that her notary had run away with the taxes she and the seller had paid him, money which should have been passed on to the Commissioner for Revenue.
Consequently, her apartment purchase hasn’t been registered at all, and the office of the Notary to the Government informed her that the only way to register it was to pay her stamp duty a second time, as well as the capital transfer taxes the vendor had paid.
The Notarial Council pointed out that the notary’s warrant was revoked in December 2019 and the Chief Notary to Government was appointed as the official keeper of the acts received by him while in the exercise of the profession of public notary.
His assets were also frozen following a decree by the Court of Magistrates, following court cases instigated by aggrieved buyers.
Lovin Malta has been informed that police have been investigating him since then, but they have yet to charge him.
“The Notarial Council was notified of the alleged misconduct in late October 2019. It is therefore imperative that such instances are notified immediately to the Notarial Council so that timely action can be taken,” a spokesperson for the Council told Lovin Malta.”
“Notaries, as public officers, are entrusted by the state to attribute public faith and ensure legal certainty for citizens and businesses requesting their services, as independent and impartial legal professionals.”
“Therefore anything that tarnishes or would seem to tarnish this independence and impartiality or that dents legal certainty is taken seriously by the Notarial Council and the authorities, and the law strictly regulates the procedures to be followed in such cases.”
The Council said it has been working incessantly with the Commissioner for Revenue and the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) in recent years to develop an integrated online system that would allow near real-time registration of deeds and tax payments, with banks, departments, notaries and property vendors and sellers notified immediately.
Such a system is expected to strengthen legal certainty and act as a safeguard against abuse.
However, the Council also urged the government to set up an adequate system of timely redress for instances where citizens’ rights have been prejudiced.
“The Notarial Council sees this as an area where adequate legislation is still lacking,” it said.
It also used the occasion to remind property buyers that they have the prerogative to choose a notary of their own personal trust, as they are the party that ultimately pays them for their service.
“This irrespective of any ‘promises’ by the seller, developer or estate agent, that other ‘suggested’ notaries would come cheaper as they had already carried out ‘searches’ or would give hefty discounts on fees or rebates (which is actually illegal).”