Beating the property fraudsters – a few simple steps can help
Unfortunately there can be no doubt that property fraud is on the rise so, if you are an owner, it is important to remain vigilant to protect yourself and your property from increasingly sophisticated fraudsters. One of their favourite tricks is to pose as legitimate property owners looking to sell or to raise a mortgage.
According to the HM Land Registry, mortgage-free properties are most vulnerable to fraud, especially if they are rented out, empty, or unregistered – over the last decade, forgery indemnities worth an estimated £55 million were paid out under the Land Registry’s indemnity scheme.
So how should you protect yourself? Your first step should be to ensure your property is registered – most properties bought or mortgaged after 1998 will be officially recorded but, if you have any doubts, it is worth checking your property’s Land Registry records. If your property is registered and you become a victim of property fraud, you are likely to qualify for financial loss compensation under the Land Registry’s indemnity scheme. If your property is not already registered, you will be able to register your ownership voluntarily, at a discounted fee.
Once your property is registered, it is important you keep your details, including your current email address, up to date – often landlords who have bought a property to let forget to update their rental property contact details when moving home themselves.
You can also sign up for free property alerts from the Land Registry. Once you are signed up to this service, you will be notified of certain types of applications that may affect up to 10 properties – a new mortgage application for example, or a change of ownership request. You do not have to own the property you wish to monitor, which makes the service suitable if you are concerned about property owned by a vulnerable family member. If you do receive notification alerting you to a potentially suspicious activity, you should take immediate action by contacting the Land Registry’s fraud line.
You can also apply for a restriction to be placed on your property. This will prevent the Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you.
General, George Ide, News, Residential Property Conveyancing