Of late, we are sadly reading reports in the press of more and more instances of property fraud. This is where fraudsters sell or mortgage properties which they do not own and abscond with the proceeds. The Land Registry have confirmed that the properties most vulnerable to fraud are:
- properties which are not lived in by the registered owner (such a buy to let property or empty properties),
- properties which are not mortgaged
- properties which have been in the same ownership for many years
- properties which are not registered with the Land Registry
It is important for all property owners to remain vigilant and alert to the possibility of fraud. This article outlines some easy steps which owners can take to protect their property.
You can register a restriction on your property to stop Land Registry registering a sale, mortgage or other transaction against your property. The transaction will then only go through if a conveyancer or solicitor certifies that the application was made by you.
Property Alert Service
Land Registry offers a ‘property alert’ service which you can sign up to free of charge. If anyone applies to the Land Registry to change the register for the property (for example, if someone tries to register a sale of the property or tries to register a mortgage against the property), the Land Registry will alert you. The alert does not automatically block the application, but you are made aware of the transaction and can then contact Land Registry in order to report the fraud. Land Registry allows you to register for property alerts in respect of up to ten separate properties at http://www.https/propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk
Keep your contact details up to date
You must ensure that Land Registry hold the most up to date contact address for you. Your contact address is shown on the property register and is also referred to as an ‘address for service’ or ‘registered address’. This is the address that Land Registry will use if they need to contact you. You can have up to three addresses including email addresses. If Land Registry become suspicious of fraudulent title activity, it is important that they are able to contact you in order to check the position with you. If your contact address changes, you should notify the Land Registry by telephone on 03000065803 quoting your title number. Updating your contact address is particularly important if you do not live at the property.
Land Registry Fraud Line
Land Registry operates a ‘fraud line’ (03000067030) which you can use to report any suspicions you may have of property fraud. Identity fraud can sometimes be a pre-curser to property fraud. You should therefore consider putting Land Registry on notice if you become aware that your identity has been cloned, for example if your passport has recently been stolen and used fraudulently.
At MacDonald Oates LLP, we can assist you with registering a restriction at the Land Registry, updating your contact address and, if your property is currently unregistered, applying for first registration of your property at the Land Registry. If you have any questions, please call us on 01730 268211 (Petersfield) or 01730 816711 (Midhurst), or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org