Sworn public notaries and bailiffs are now authorised to mediate. On Thursday, 26 November, the Saeima adopted changes in the Law on Notaries and Law on Bailiffs in the third reading. Amendments have expanded the list of mediation service providers, while retaining the same quality requirements – both notaries and bailiffs will be required to undergo certification. Legislation pertaining to mediation was adopted in Latvia last year in order to provide for out-of-court settlement of civil disputes and offer mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution.
According to the amendments to the Law on Notaries, adopted by the Saeima today, notaries prosecuted and suspended for deliberate violation of Criminal Law will be allowed to continue certain types of professional activities subject to several restrictions. To engage in other professional activities, written permission from the Ministry of Justice will be required.
The amendments also repeal the provision to hold notary exam at least once a year. According to the Ministry of Justice, depopulation and low economic activity has led to a reduction in notaries’ workload. Therefore, notary selection procedure must be well-considered. Certification of notaries must prevent overproduction of notaries who then struggle to maintain their offices due to insufficient workload. Therefore, from now on, examination of potential notaries will be held ad hoc. The new procedure emulates the exam practice for the selection of bailiffs introduced earlier.
Other amendments to the Law on Notaries introduce additional inheritance safeguards, offering a more precise definition of activities and means of protecting inheritance: sealing of immovable property, warehouse or packaging, freezing of real estate or assets, freezing of accounts.
A new section was added to the Law, regulating the procedure for handling cross-border inheritance cases.
The Law on Bailiffs has been expanded by adding an additional section detailing and outlining the legal procedure for inheritance protection. According to the new legal provisions, bailiffs are required to implement safeguarding of inheritance upon the request of a notary public.
The amendments to the Law now allow bailiffs to unseal and enter a property owned by a deceased person to ensure appropriate protection of inheritance. Until now, bailiffs have been prohibited from entering the property and fulfilling their professional duties if other parties living on the premises refused them.
Inheritance cases were delegated to notaries in 2003, and inheritance protection and dispute resolution functions performed by court were removed from the Civil Procedure Law in 2012. According to the authors of the draft law, although substantive rights are protected by the Civil Law and the Law on Notaries, the absence of procedural regulation may cause confusion and hinder appropriate application of these legal provisions.
The amendments also open notary profession to citizens of other European Union (EU) member states. Until now only Latvian citizens were eligible to become practicing notaries in Latvia. However, this provision was found inconsistent with the European law and overturned by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJ concluded that such provision contradicts the right of European citizens to practice their profession without any limitations in any of the EU’s member states. The Court also ruled that notary practice, according to the Latvian legislation, shall not be construed as exercising of public power in the context of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The ECJ has adopted a similar approach to several other EU member states where national legislation limited notary profession to their citizens.
Saeima Press Service