Tackling Property Fraud
High-profile cases of property fraud in the media remind us of the increasing readiness of fraudsters to attempt this type of fraud.
Property can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and can, therefore, be an attractive target for fraudsters. Often, fraudsters steal the real owner’s identity and then sell or mortgage the property by pretending to be them. If it is not discovered promptly, the true property owner might find their property has been transferred or sold without their knowledge.
When it comes to property fraud, obviously prevention is better than cure. While incidences of registration fraud are rare, they can cause great distress to the victims and fixing the mess can be distressing, time-consuming and costly.
HM Land Registry (HMLR) encourages all property owners to do what they can to reduce their risk of fraud.
Fraudsters often target empty or rented properties that are:
- owned by a landlord such as a buy-to-let owner;
- where the owner is absent, for example, because they live abroad;
- where the owner is elderly and may be absent as they are in residential care; and
- where the owner has died and the property is, for example, held in trust.
Read the following Top Tips, watch the video and click on the links for further information.
HMLR’s Top Tips to reduce your risk of property fraud:
- Make sure that the property is registered, especially if it is mortgage-free. If your property is not registered, and you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer financial loss as a consequence, you will not be entitled to compensation if your property is unregistered.
- Sign up for HMLR’s free Property Alert service, which helps owners to guard against property fraud. You can monitor up to 10 registered properties in England and Wales with this service. HMLR will send you an email alert when there is certain activity on the monitored property such as if someone tries to take a mortgage out on it. If you get an alert, you can judge whether the activity is suspicious and seek further advice.
- Make sure that your contact details are up-to-date at HMLR so that they can reach you easily. You can have up to 3 addresses on the register, including an email address or address abroad. If your details are not up-to-date, you may not receive any correspondence if HMLR tried to contact you.
- Property owners who feel that their property might be at risk can have a restriction entered on their property. This is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify that they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner. There is no HMLR fee for homeowners to register this restriction, as long as they do not live in the property they wish to protect.
- If you have a property registered in a company name, you can request a free restriction. This is designed to help safeguard against forgery by requiring a conveyancer or solicitor to certify that they are satisfied the Company transferring, leasing or mortgaging the property is the same company as the owner, before any new sale, lease or mortgage is registered.
The following video explains what property fraud is and how you can protect yourself:
If you think you have already been the victim of property fraud contact HMLR’s property fraud line on 0300 006 7030 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also report it to Action Fraud at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Please call and speak to a member of our Property & Conveyancing Team for further advice or assistance on 01229 583291.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article