Notaire Fails in Duty of Care to Purchaser
Thursday 04 October 2012
A notaire who failed to draw the attention of a purchaser to an easement adversely affecting a property has been found guilty of professional negligence.
The case concerned the sale of a property for the sum of €900,000 in the commune of Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany.
The sale contract itself (compromis de vente) had been signed through the auspices of the selling agent in November 2007, but contained no mention of any easement (servitude) affecting the property.
Sale completion took place in February 2008, with buyer and seller each being represented by their own notaire.
In August, neighbours of the new owners made them aware of an easement dating from 1947 restricting construction or planting on the property that would adversely affect their view.
Information on the easement, although not previously volunteed by the sellers, was included in the acte authentique prepared the sellers notaire yet was not communicated to them by their own notaire.
As the new owners wished to substantially enlarge the existing property they sued the notaire.
The court argued that not only was the notaire obliged to draw the attention of the buyers to the discordance between the sale contract and the completion deed, but also to point out the implications on the use and value of the property they were buying.
In his defence the notaire somewhat vainly argued that the purchasers had signed the completion deed stating that they had knowledge of the property and that the relevant information relating to the easement had been included in the deed.
He also pointed out that he had advised them to consult with their architect concerning their proposed construction project.
These arguments were not accepted by the court, who took the view that the notaire owed a duty of care to the purchasers to provide them with appropriate advice and information on the property.
However, the court only awarded damages of €25,000 on the basis that it was by no means evident that the purchaser had suffered a major prejudice. The purchasers had sought damages of several hundred thousand euros.