Chased for someone else's €150k debt

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A WOMAN who faces having to pay for her house twice after discovering the seller was bankrupt is taking her case to France’s top appeal court saying her notaire failed in his legal duty.

Carole Thomas bought her house in Saint-Saud-Lacoussière, Dordogne in 2006 for €150,000, only to find the seller had no right to sell it and proceeds should have gone to pay his business debts.

Liquidators are demanding the money back from Mrs Thomas, who is hoping for a third time lucky in court after losing her first case and the subsequent appeal.

She describes the house purchase as “the worst thing I’ve done in my life” and says the notaire, who has now died, should have done better checks on the seller, who has since left the region.

Mrs Thomas, who has two children, 12 and 10, said: “We just wanted him to check the person was decent. His response was if he had to dig deep for every house sale he would never get through anything. But I paid him €10,000 for his work – it wasn’t just for him to sign a piece of paper.”

Liquidators have agreed not to chase Mrs Thomas for the debt until the Cour de Cassation in Paris reaches a verdict next year.

She in turn has been told she could take action against the seller but only once she has paid - but he is thought to be insolvent.
What is more, if she is forced to sell to pay, she says the house’s value has fallen by almost a half.

Mrs Thomas, who runs a horse-riding centre, said: “We’re having to tighten up our spending. I had also applied for a loan for my business and since my bank found out about the house episode that’s been refused.”

Her case has been taken up by former notaire Alain Dubreuilh of Association de Défense Contre les Abus de Notaires who said: “The notaire is required to check declarations parties make in case one is trying to cheat; if he just trusts them, he’s not checking anything.”

Mr Dubreuilh added: “My opinion is the lower courts wanted to protect the notaire, but now she’ll win, because I’ve seen two identical recent cases where the Cour found against the notaire”.

He said the notaire’s fault is clear because the fact the seller was in liquidation was easily checkable on the website Infogreffe.
Furthermore it was he, not Mrs Thomas, who made an unsuitable payment - she paid him the money and he paid the seller, not the liquidators.

The problem was compounded by the fact the liquidators did not register a “stop notice” at the land registry against the house; however this is not a legal obligation, Mr Dubreuilh said.
He added it also appears the seller hid from them the fact he owned the house and they only found out after the sale.