The Rise of Property Fraud

Property fraud is unfortunately on the rise, with increasing numbers of properties being sold or mortgaged fraudulently. So concerned is Land Registry that it has declared this July Scams Awareness Month.

Fraud arises in many different ways in property transactions. Recent cases include:

  • Properties being sold by fraudsters claiming to be the registered owners of the property.
  • Property owners being the victims of identity theft where fraudsters apply to a lender purporting to be the owner of a property in order to obtain a mortgage. The real owner only discovers the fraud when mortgage payments are requested by the lender.

You are considered to be more at risk if: you rent out your property; the property is empty; you live overseas or the property is not mortgaged. You could also be at risk if you have had your identity stolen or the property is not registered with Land Registry.

Land Registry Property Alerts

There are steps you can take to protect your property from being fraudulently sold or mortgaged. The Land Registry have set up a Property Alert service which will email you if there has been certain activity on the title Register of your property. This service allows you to register up to 10 properties, free of charge.

For example, if a search against the property by another individual or lender indicates that you have not instructed a sale or remortgage, you can then take the appropriate steps to contact Land Registry or seek legal advice.

You can visit the Land Registry website by clicking here.

This service will not automatically block any changes to the register but will alert you when something changes so that you can take action.

Add a Restriction to your title

If you do not live at the property you can also register a Restriction against the property to ensure Land Registry do not register a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or Solicitor certifies the application was made by you. If you do not live at the property this can be done free of charge, or for £40 if you do live at the property.

Ensure your title is up to date

You can register up to a maximum of three addresses for service on your title register which can include email and non-UK addresses. This enables Land Registry to contact you if, for example, they need to serve notice on you that something has been registered against your title. You need to ensure these addresses are kept up to date to ensure any potential fraud can be intercepted at the earliest possible time.

Money transfers with Solicitors

Solicitors have also become the target of the fraudsters who have intercepted emails between Solicitor and client confirming the bank details to which monies for completion are to be sent. This has led to numerous cases where clients have sent monies to fraudsters accounts believing the email to be a genuine email from their Solicitor. Many firms will now only send such details by post and you should ensure you check any such details directly with your solicitor before making payments.

Please see the Land Registry''s ''Protect your Property from Fraud'' guide by clicking here.

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