COVID-19: Suspension of legal times relating to promise of sale agreements, notarial and related matters

In response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Malta, the Government has taken several legal measures to fight the effects of this infectious disease. One of these measures was an order for the closure of the courts from Monday, 16th March 2020, through Legal Notice 65 of 2020.

In addition to the closure of the courts, the Government, after discussions with the Notarial Council, has also suspended the legal times relating to promise of sale agreements, notarial, and other related matters, via Legal Notice 75 of 2020 published on Tuesday, 17th March 2020.

These steps have been taken to safeguard the rights of clients that use the services of a notary public and supposedly to attempt to reduce the number of people gathering in crowded rooms to sign contracts.

According to the legal notice:

The Superintendent of Public Health has made the following order…

the suspension of the running of all the legal terms imposed on a notary public by law to register any deed, will, act or private writing…

or any period within which the notary public, in terms of any applicable law, has to pay taxes collected by him in the exercise of his profession.”

Read the legal notice here

The effects of this notice are summarised below:

  • Suspension of the terms applicable by law for the notary public to register public deeds, wills, and private writing.
  • Suspension of the terms during which the notary public must collect taxes, as well as of fiscal benefits, incentives or other exemptions.
  • Suspension of the obligations on the notary public to provide information or documentation to authorities or regulators.
  • Suspension of the terms on all promises of sales that have already been registered with the Commissioner of Revenue. This does not require the signatures of the parties involved.
  • The suspension shall last until twenty days after the repeal of any such order by the Superintendent of Public Health.

The summary is also available in Maltese below:

During the time the courts are closed, and for twenty days after their reopening, the term of a promise of sale agreement is to be considered paused or suspended.

If your promise of sale is due to expire on the 8th of May, one has to count the number of days from the 16th of March (i.e. the day of the order of closure of the courts) that works out to 53 days and add another 20 days to that number for a total of 73 days.

This period will start running from the day when the courts re-open. Therefore, the promise of sale described above would be valid for an additional 73 days from when court re-opens.

Following this order, the Notarial Council, in these unprecedented circumstances, exhorts all Notaries to follow the health authorities’ recommendation of extended social distancing, in the greater interest of public health, and only perform strictly necessary services which cannot admit of delay.

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