Property Fraud

Issue 41

Since the Land Registry opened its doors to the public it has become relatively simple for anyone to make a simple search of the Register to find out own owns a property and what, if any, mortgages are registered against it.

Property owners may be aware of the measures to take to prevent their possessions being stolen but may not realise that the house or land that they own could also be at risk. In days gone by one of the main proofs of ownership of land was the production of title deeds – in todays digital age this practice is almost obsolete, and we now rely on the

Land Registry to hold all such information.

It can be extremely difficult to steal land however fraudsters are inventing ingenious methods all the time. Title theft works in essence when the fraudster assumes false identities in order that they can pass themselves off as the landowners.

This allows them to offer the land as security for a loan, or sell the land to a third party, then pocket the money and disappear leaving the owner to deal with the distressing and costly consequences.

When the landowner discovers the crime, the property is usually already in mortgage or the land is registered in someone else’s name.

The Land Registry can rectify the Register and restore the title to the innocent landowner however this may not be possible if an innocent third party has bought the property from an imposter or lent money to that imposter with the land as security.

You’re more at risk if: –

-Your identity’s been stolen

-You rent out your property

-You live overseas

-The property is empty. For example, if the owner is in a care home.

-The property isn’t mortgaged

-The property isn’t registered with HM Land Registry

-Where there are family problems.

You can however take steps to protect your property from being fraudulently sold or mortgaged and minimize the risk of becoming a property fraud victim.

Measures you can take to protect yourself against property fraud include making sure your property is registered at the Land Registry. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated.Once registered it is important that you ensure that the Land Registry has your up to date contact details, so they can reach you. You can track changes to the Register in relation to the property(s) or put a restriction on your title if you think you’re at risk. You can also provide the Land Registry with additional addresses to ensure that any notifications or other correspondence actually reaches you, this also includes supplying an email address.

The Land Registry allow you to sign up to get property alerts if someone makes an application to

change the Register of your property.

It is important to note that this won’t automatically block any changes to the Register, but it will alert you in case you need to take action.

The benefits of property alert: –

– It can provide an early warning of suspicious activity.

-It allows you to take immediate action if something happens to your property that you are not expecting.

You are able to get alerts for up to 10 propertiesand this service is free from the Land Registry.

You can stop HM Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you. This is achieved by a simple restriction being placed on the register.

We at Richard Reed are able to help you by updating the Register or putting a restriction on the Register.

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