Notaries face closure under controversial law.jpg

Notaries face closure under controversial law


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THE PORTUGUESE Order of Notaries has thrown down the gauntlet to the government over a controversial new law which ends the legal necessity of registering property sales at notary offices.

The move, in the planning since last year and part of José Socrates’ election pledge to speed up administrative efficiency, has been slammed by notaries who say it will kill off their business.

Under the new law it will no longer be a legal necessity to register property transactions of any kind at a notary. It will now be optional.

But notaries claim that property registration is their main source of business without which they cannot survive.

The President of the Portuguese Order of Notaries, Bastonário da Ordem dos Notários (ON), Joaquim Barata Lopes, said that the proposed measure would “not benefit citizens” and would only serve to “create more insecurity”.

“It will create more insecurity, significantly increase the number of legal disputes and leave the average owner less protected under the law,” he said.

Joaquim Barata Lopes now wants meetings with the government and president to convey the message that “this act could have catastrophic consequences.”

Legal security

Under new Decree 255/93 property contracts or escrituras will soon be able to be carried out by solicitors using certificated documents, documentos autenticados, at Conservatories or Land Registries with solicitors and even chambers of commerce all being legally entitled to carry out the work.

The Order of Notaries considers this extremely serious because notary legal control will cease to exist, ending strict public registration and archiving of authentic, witnessed contracts and public documents in conditions of complete legal security.

The ON also believes that the official contracts will now go up in price while the President or Bastonário of the Order of Notaries doubts that solicitors will charge less than notaries currently do to validate the contracts.

Under the current system, the Final Deed prepared by the solicitor is read aloud, signed and witnessed before all parties and a notary at the Notary Office.

The cost of registering a 100,000 euro transaction with a notary is 150 euros plus the cost of Stamp Duty, Imposto de Selo, which is expressed as a percentage of the total sale and varies from between 1,000 and 3,000 euros for average property sales. Ten per cent of that goes to the government.

“I can’t see a solicitor carrying out that service for that price,” argued Joaquim Barata Lopes.

Between June 2006 and December 2007 lawyers had registered four million acts at notaries representing 12 million euros to the government with property worth 70 to 80 per cent of the total volume of notary business.

“The government is destroying our livelihoods and handing over all the business to solicitors,” he added.

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