A California court has affirmed that notaries who provide services in addition to notarizations may charge for those services without violating the fee limitations in the state code.
A homeowner sued his escrow holder for charging a notary fee in excess of the amount permitted by California Government Code § 8211 when he refinanced a loan. Section 8211 allows a notary to charge $10 per signature for taking an acknowledgment. In the homeowner’s particular transaction, only two acknowledgments were taken, but the escrow holder charged $75 for notary services on the settlement statement. The homeowner alleged that the escrow holder violated the code.
The escrow holder then filed a motion for summary judgment on two grounds: that § 8211 was not a cap on notary fees, but instead, a limited amount that could be charged for acknowledgments. This particular notary performed additional services, including traveling to the location of the signing, presenting multiple documents for signature, showing where to sign or initial each document, answering questions, etc. The escrow holder also pointed out that the notary was an independent third party contractor, precluding liability by the escrow holder for any alleged violation.
The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the escrow holder. The Court said while § 8211 places a limitation on the amount that can be charged for each acknowledgment, it is silent as to charges for other services provided by a notary. The Court said the escrow holder’s evidence showed the notary’s performance of the notarial act was just one part of the overall signing service she provided to the homeowner.
Perhaps the aggravation and expense of a lawsuit could have been prevented had the notary and escrow holder itemized the provided services in addition to the acknowledgments. This way the homeowner would have known exactly what he was getting for the $75 that was charged.