Property fraud has rapidly developed in recent years, with HM Land Registry reporting that fraudulent property sales have more than tripled since 2013. Property is often the most valuable asset an individual owns and, unfortunately, is seen as an attractive target for fraudsters.
Homeowners and property investors are increasingly falling victim to fraud, to prevent this, Blaser Mills Law can take a look at what you can do to protect yourself and assist you in taking all necessary precautions to protect your property.
What forms of property fraud are there?
Whilst property fraud can take many forms, we shall be focussing on title fraud, registration fraud and identity theft.
- Title fraud – This is where a criminal steals the registered owner’s identity and subsequently transfers ownership of the property into their name.
- Registration fraud – Fraudsters may use a Land Registry application to target the property, by registering a forged transfer deed or mortgage.
- Identity theft – This is where a criminal attempts to sell or mortgage a property by impersonating an owner using false or stolen identification. They may also impersonate persons involved in a property transaction, including sellers, buyers, borrowers, lenders or conveyancers for financial gain.
Certain types of properties are considered more at risk of fraud such as unmortgaged properties, properties with deceased owners, buy to let property, owners who reside overseas or who are otherwise absent.
A recent case which illustrates the severity of property fraud, involved a mother and daughter team who targeted a high value four bedroom Kensington property. The mother changed her name by deed poll to match that of the registered owner of the property, which was mortgage free and tenanted. She posed as the owner of the property and applied for a bridging loan of £1.2 million, which successfully completed. When the application was made to the Land Registry, it was fortunately identified as fraudulent so the true owner did not lose the property. However, by this time the monies had already been withdrawn and the proceeds of the fraud have never been recovered.
Ways to protect your property from fraud and how we can help:
Sign up to the Land Registry’s Property Alert Service:
The Land Registry now offers a free service whereby you can register up to 10 properties and the Land Registry will notify you of certain questionable activity to allow you to take action if required. Property Alert is an award-winning property monitoring service aimed at anyone who has concerns that a registered property could be at risk from fraud. To register with the service, you should visit the Land Registry’s website.
Address for service:
It is essential that the Land Registry has your up to date address noted on the title register. There may be occasions where the Land Registry will need to contact you. For example, if they receive an application or notice affecting the property. If an old address is recorded, the Land Registry’s attempts to reach you may be delayed or, at worst, go unanswered.
You can register up to a maximum of three addresses which can also include an email address. To update the address on your title, you must complete a prescribed Land Registry Form and have your ID verified by a solicitor.
Blaser Mills Law is offering their existing clients the chance to update their title without the hassle and cost associated with completing the forms and having ID verified, for a fixed fee of £99 plus VAT.
Enter an Anti-Fraud Restriction on the Title:
You can help safeguard your property by applying to place a restriction on the title of your property. The aim of this restriction is to help prevent a third party fraudulently selling your property without notice and would require a solicitor to certify that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner. There is an equivalent form of restriction for an investment property, known as an LL restriction.
Blaser Mills Law would be pleased to assist in this process for a fixed fee of £50 plus VAT.
It is vital that you are aware of the potential for property fraud and that you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your property. If you would like further information on how to protect your property, please contact Zara Liedl Carroll on email@example.com or 01494 788026.
If you think you may have been a victim of property fraud, please contact Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre immediately.