Attempt by a Notaire to rip us off?

Just wondered if anyone else has experienced this and to ask if there is an official body with whom to lodge a complaint?

We approached a local Notaire with a view to having our wills drawn up. All went well, no problems with our requests and an appointment was made to return with witnesses to sign the papers. The next day we received a letter confirming the date and a bill for 800 euros. Yes 800 euros!!

I thought - OMG they must have put the decimal point in the wrong place....

So I queried it and they confirmed that "Yes Madame, that is correct - 800 euros....."

I did a bit of investigating and discovered that the charge for making of wills is regulated at 117 euros plus another 50 or so (for something that I didn't really understand) so I thought - ok about 170 each equals 340 NOT 800.

So I write another email - "I am a bit confused - it appears according to this (link attached of official regulation) the costs should be 340ish euros"

Voila - I get a reply "oh silly me - yes of course it will be only 340 euros - we seem to have made a mistake"

Now maybe I am wrong and maybe I'm not but I REALLY think that they were trying to rip us off and I took great umbrage at that and I promptly cancelled our dealings with them.

The questions are -

Were they trying it on?

How many other people (foreigners like us maybe) have just paid without query?

Can they get away with it?

Is there some ombudsman type body that ought to know??

Let me know what you think.....

hi, you are not the only one having problems with notaires

it is not just foreigners, it is everybody : how can we know all the rules? how can we understand their obscure( on purpose) language?

you can put a complaint to the "chambre des notaires" of the department wher you are ...

good luck

Well, then you must have had the luck to stumble upon one of the rare good guys, because our experiences with the chambre were so far beyond credible that what they did you couldn't even use as material for a serious book because no readers would believe it.



David's link is also available in English -- see Useful Links/Legal.

Elizabeth It wasn't sarcasm it was ever so slightly British humour or even schadenfreude. It was really just an observation.

I meant my comment for David.
Karen your reply was great

Contacting the Chambres de Notaires ISN'T a waste of time. My experiences with them have shown them to be very strict with their 'confreres' though this doesn't make them all holier than thou. I've dealt with some real crooked notaires but there are some excellent ones around so I agree, it's best to ask around.


Yes, I've seen this kind of behaviour before, and most of our dealings with French 'notaires' have been notably bad, slow, crooked or plain rip-offs. But on the other hand, two or three have worked impeccably and were incredibly honest on top, like sending us (abroad) a quite substantial sum (with explanation) equal to the interest our funds acquired while sitting in his (special client-) account, without having been asked.

Contacting la chambre des notaires is quite often a total waste of time and effort because they will first of all try to protect their 'confrere'.

Better just ask around and try finding a more honest notary. Local people usually know.

Have a nice day!


Not sure David but after seeing this post I am going to show my husband when he gets home so he can look in to it further. We are buying her part out for 60,000 euro then there is one charge that both us and my sister in law pay which I believe is the solicitors charge, which we would have had to pay even if the house had been sold to a third party.The other fee is simply for us, it is this part of the charges that is the most expensive.

Hi Karen

As this matter is about money, the legal body to turn to is

  • du tribunal d'instance (for discrepancies below 10 000 €)

  • You could also turn to your Chambre Départementale des Notaires (but they are more there to help move a static situation forward)

Hope this helps


Sadly, if they think you do not know the systems and it's tariffs, some, but not all will try it on. I can speak from experience with one local notaire where I live who has tried it on several time with brits. She now has a terrible reputation. Lucky for me now, I have a notaire who is a personal friend who rented a house from us while she was studying a few years back. She now has her own practice and I wouldn't use anyone else now.

Denise, i''m sure the vast majority of notaires are completely honest people but I know of some in this area, past and present who are not. The latest one has been defrocked because of 'dodgy book-keeping'. The estate agency I worked with in the '80s helped the Chambre de Notaires nail a corrupt notaire in the Charente at the time. Notaires are strictly regulated with regular visits and checks carried out by two independant notaires each time (unless the system has changed).

Notaires are two things. 1) Government tax collectors and 2) Businessmen and women. Like all business people some are bound to be less scrupulous than others. Our agency 'worked' with certain notaires who just about only worked with us while other agencies didn't get to see any of the properties for sale by that notaire. It was a very much symbiotic arrangement.

My current notaire in Rochechouart (87) is brill and 100% honest in my eyes. Top man who takes the trouble to speak excellent english to help the non-french clientele. There are other notaires in the area I wouldn't touch with a barge pole...

We had a poor experience with our Notaire that resulted in a lot of animosity between us and a co-proprietor of our building. The issue had resulted from the Notaire including rights of access to a certain door (to be used as a fire escape) in our Acte, but not in the Acte of the co-proprietor. When we investigated the possibility of seeking compensation, or even just a sorry, from our Notaire the general gist that we got was that Notaires are virtually above the law.

You can try to litigate against one, but given the average age of Notaires, the Notaire would probably die before anything came of your claim.

Were they being deliberately underhand?? Who knows? The fact that you queried the price once and they confirmed that it was correct suggests yes.

My observation of living here for the last 5 years is that if you speak less than perfect French, and you have a 'foreign' accent, many people in positions of authority in France will immediately stereotype you as 'stupid' as opposed to someone who is trying to get by with French as a second language. I can't count the nulber of times that I have trotted out my fave phrase 'Je suis anglaise, pas sourds ni une imbecile '.

Clearly, I wouldn't use that Notaire again. When you find a good one, hold on to him/her, as they are worth their weight in gold!!! :)

Good luck!

I think it happens all the time in France, or maybe it's just more noticeable to me there because I'm always more vigilant in a foreign language.......I look and find dishonestly more ? Saying that France has a rep for corruption in general, so probably not conspiring against Brits solely, even though it feels like sometimes! My tax fonciers seems to have risen to four times the amount in the last two years, when I asked my neighbour with roughly the same size house/land etc hers had remained the same bar a few euro?

In France there is no regulations for lawyers and notaries not even recommendations for fees for what service except with property related issues. They actually can charge for their services what they think is appropriate. In a country where you can still find signs on a door of a shop "free entrance" its posh to have the most expensive lawyer because he has the best service (joking) ... You always have to settle the price clear before, like with an artisan. Then its also better to make sure all is really "kosher". I have had a case where a Notaire drafted a contract which was an attempt to bypass another law. If you then have to go to their professional camber (as a foreigner) good luck... You need to be in control when it is coming to money.

I've just been reading through the replies to this discussion and was really surprised at some of them. Naively I would have assumed them to be above reproach but I suppose there is always the temptation to exploit. However, in our case, the notaire (who has sadly now passed away) was fantastic. Refunded monies twice which were not used when we purchased our house but the thing which sticks in my mind was the case of when we wanted to change our wills which had been made out in England by someone who advertised he was familiar which French law and specialised in such things. We paid him £400 (2002) but when he showed them to our notaire he was horrified saying they weren't worth the paper they were written on and would not hold up in a court of law. He got his secretary to write out what we should have written (in French) and asked us to write it out in our handwriting and bring it back to him. Which we did and he refused to charge us as he said he was ashamed someone in his profession had mislead us so. What a guy, sadly missed.

it's not unknown & it's not unknown for a mayor to be in collusion...the advice re no guns blazing is the best, benefit of doubt...our notaire has become a friend & when we checked our wills were still correct for any new laws/tax the other month it cost us a lunch.

Karen, go to your Chambre de Notaires in your department. A notaire not too far from me has been struck off for similar practices and worse recently. This could well be an 'honest' mistake so don't go in all guns blazing with accusations etc. Just explain your situation. I'm sure you will have to first make an appointment. Good luck.

Incidentally when I ran a professional firm in London we had many, many foreign clients. Many could speak a little English but never had any detailed knowledge of how to work with an architect in the UK, how to get planning permission, builders and so on. Every professional person in the UK is expected to clearly explain the process and the fees in advance and to confirm them in writing. We went out of way to carefully explain every part of the process where the client was non British (or elderly, or in some way inexperienced). Over here I have used a few notaires and one avocat but I've never had a letter confirming fees in advance. I should like to say that some solicitors in the UK don't do it properly and don't keep you informed about clients accounts, interest etc and just help themselves to fees when they feel like it. (I speak from personal experience).

Many years ago (1991 or so) a local notaire and my Mairie lied to me. I had them investigated (without telling them so) by a Parisien based firm of avocats and their report enabled me to retrieve £7000 including legal costs. It was a rather traumatic process and didn't exactly endear me to the locals but the Mayor changed, the notaire died (his assistant hung himself) and all the original players save me are gone. In the next village a notaire in league with a corrupt British estate agent made off with lots of deposit monies from various British buyers and was eventually expelled from the Ordre des Notaires. Mind you if you look at complaints about solicitors in the UK there are many hundreds every year, and I am currently having huge problems with a negligent firm of solicitors there.