Are you protected from Property Fraud?

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For many people, property is their most valuable asset, and they want to ensure it is protected. Those without ample protection could be at risk of property fraud, which causes homeowners both financial and emotional distress.

Property fraud is where fraudsters illegally attempt to acquire ownership of a property and then attempt to sell or re-mortgage it by using false documents to transfer the property into their own name or by pretending to be the registered owner so they can walk away with the surplus funds.

Fraudsters can target a number of different property owners. Some scenarios where owners may be at a higher risk are:

  • Owners whose identity has been stolen.
  • Owners who do not live at the property.
  • Owners who live overseas.
  • Properties that are rented out.
  • Empty properties.
  • Properties that are not mortgaged.
  • Properties that are not registered with HM Land Registry.

What can you do to Protect your property?

Steps can be taken by you as the property owner to protect your property from being sold or mortgaged fraudulently.

Update Contact Details with the HM Land Registry

Ensure that HM Land Registry are able to contact you where you live. This means checking that HM Land Registry have your up-to-date contact address and ensuring that you notify HM Land Registry if such information is incorrect or if there are any changes.

Register the Property Title

If your property is unregistered, you may wish to consider registering the title to assist HM Land Registry in safeguarding ownership of your property.

Property Alert Service

The Property Alert Service is a free service, offered by HM Land Registry, which allows property owners to monitor their property and receive alerts if someone applies to change the register of the property.

Once you have signed up to this service, you’ll receive email notifications when there is significant activity on the property/properties you are monitoring, for example new mortgage applications or changes to the title. The alert will provide information on the type of activity, who the applicant is and the date and time the application has been received. If you receive an alert and suspect fraudulent activity, act promptly. The alert email will provide details on who to contact.

In order to sign up to the Property Alert Service, the property title will need to be registered with HM Land Registry. When using this service, property owners must be vigilant as not all alerts indicate fraudulent activity and will need to be reviewed carefully. Furthermore, Property Alerts will not automatically prevent fraud or block any changes but can assist in keeping property owners informed so they can take action if necessary.

Property owners can sign up to the Property Alert Service themselves directly using the link below:

https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/

Anti-fraud Restriction

A restriction registered on the property title limits the owner’s ability to deal with the property without undertaking further action/verification.

By adding the restriction on the title, property owners can stop HM Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage on their property unless a solicitor/conveyancer provides a certificate confirming that the application was made by the true property owner. Therefore, any solicitor or conveyancer will need to verify the owner’s identity before the property is dealt with. The addition of the restriction attracts no Land Registry fee for business/company owners that own the property or for owners who do not live at the property. If you live at the property and would like to add this restriction, there is a Land Registry fee payable..

Addition of the restriction on the title is worth considering if you are a landlord, you don’t live in your property or if it’s likely to be left empty for any period of time, as these properties are more at risk of property fraud. Adding the restriction may make your property a less attractive target for fraud. It is important to note however, that having this restriction added to the property title can cause delays in the process of selling, leasing or mortgaging your property as you’ll need to address additional hurdles before continuing in the process.   

If you wish to register your property, add a restriction to your title or would like advice on any of the above, the Residential Property team across our three offices: St AlbansHarpenden and Luton can help.

Disclaimer: General Information Provided Only
Please note that the contents of this article are intended solely for general information purposes and should not be considered as legal advice. We cannot be held responsible for any loss resulting from actions or inactions taken based on this article.

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