photo: Harriot Voncken

PHILIPSBURG – Citizens who wish to file complaints as to whether a notary has followed the letter of the law, cannot do so with the Supervisory Board for Notaries. This board is currently not active because the board has been missing a notarial member since 2010.

One of the victims of this situation is Demitrus Marlin. He already filed a claim against a notary in 2015 but this was never treated. He sent a letter to the governor of Sint Maarten the same year regarding the lack of a Supervisory Board. His letter was sent on to the ministry of Justice. He thought that the problem had been resolved and filed a new claim this year with the board about a notary.

Marlin: “Procedural mistakes were made during the auction of my apartments. I do believe that there was still a lien on them. My complaint has been sent to the concerning notary. I would be surprised if the board doesn’t come into session. Which avenues could I pursue? I went to the Ombudsman but they refer back to the Supervisory Board.”

No one available
The Supervisory Board for Notaries falls under the Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. The board should comprise two judges and a notarial member.

But because there are only three notaries and three candidate-notaries on the island, no one is available, explains the Court of Sint Maarten. The notaries do not wish to rule on complaints filed against their colleagues, the community on the island is too small for that, according to the Court.

It is a legal requirement to have such a board: oversight contributes to the quality and reliability of the services provided by the notaries. The board can hand out fines up to 10.000 guilders and can even remove notaries from office.

A court case, such as a summary proceeding, is currently the only option citizens of Sint Maarten have for solving a conflict with a notary. There is no dispute committee for example.

In the meantime, Marlin filled suit against his notary. He is still waiting on a reply from the board. “Due to my conflict with the bank and the notary, a portion of my apartments has been actioned off and I still have an outstanding debt with the bank. Because of this I cannot start new projects or get a new loan.”

‘It’s remarkable that citizens of Sint Maarten have to start a court case against their notaries due to the long wait’

Since becoming an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands on October 10th, 2010, the complaints filed with the Supervisory Board land on a pile. There are currently five complaints on that pile.

“The Supervisory Board is active on Curaçao and is in session three to four times a year. The Supervisory Board on Curaçao could technically handle these cases but Curaçaoan notaries are not authorized to practice on Sint Maarten”, says the Court.

“The law would have to be changed to make that possible and the ministry of Justice handles that. That new law has not been finalized. That way a notary from Curaçao could join the board as an expert.” The Court has found that notaries from Curaçao are willing to join the Supervisory Board for Sint Maarten.

The Court for Sint Maarten mentions that cases against notaries are not uncommon. “It also happens in Curaçao or the Netherlands. It is however remarkable that citizens of Sint Maarten have to start a court case against their notaries due to the long wait.”

The notaries were asked for a comment. Two of them referred back to the Court, the third one did not reply.