There is much talk about property fraud and the risks that exist for home owners. The most common types are when fraudsters seek to sell other peoples houses or try and secure borrowing against a property leaving the true owner with a debt.
The Land Registry state that the value of fraudulent property sales has more than tripled since 2013 when it was £7.2 million, hitting £24.9m in the year to April 2017.
In one case the owner of a £1.3m rental property had her property “sold” by the tenant without her knowledge. In this case, Land Registry stopped the fraud in time and owner did not lose her property but the duped buyer has lost the £1.3m she paid for it.
In a separate case a woman persuaded her mother to pose as the owner of a luxury £3m home and managed to secure a £1.2m bridging loan against the property, sending the money overseas, where it was withdrawn before the deal was flagged as fraud.
Properties that are most likely to be at risk from property fraud are:
- Empty properties such as where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home.
- Tenanted properties.
- Properties without a mortgage.
Although protection from fraud cannot be guaranteed the following precautions should be considered:
- Check the Land Registry has your contact details.
- Sign up for the Land Registry Property Alert service.
- Place a Restriction on your title at the Land Registry.
There is a great deal of useful information that can be obtained from your title deeds and the Land Registry only charge £3.00 to provide a copy of your title and another £3.00 if you want a copy of the accompanying plan.
Part of your title, known as the Proprietorship Register reveals details of ownership and you should ensure your contact details are up-to-date. You can have up to three addresses including an email address, your home address and even an address abroad. If your details are not up to date, you may not receive correspondence from the Land Registry if there is an issue with your title.
The Land Registry has a service called Property Alert aimed at anyone who wants to reduce the risk of being a victim of property fraud. It is free and easy you to use and the Land Registry will send you an email any time there is certain activity on a monitored property. It is not just useful for monitoring a property you may let but also for monitoring a home owned by an elderly relative or of someone living abroad.
Finally, owners who do not live at property registered at the Land Registry can make a request to enter a restriction for free. This type of restriction means that the Land Registry will not register a transaction such as a sale or a mortgage, unless a solicitor or other professional conveyancer certifies that they have checked the owners’ identity.
If you have a company owning property or you do not live at the property there is no fee but if you want a restriction put on the property you live in the Land Registry fee is £40.00.
Hopefully you will never be a victim of property fraud but if you are you should contact the Land Registry at firstname.lastname@example.org or on telephone: 0300 006 7030.