How to protect yourself from property fraud
Property fraud occurs most commonly where fraudsters try to obtain legal ownership of your property or by raising money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge and disappearing without making repayments.
Land and buildings are usually the most valuable assets people own, it is important that property owners do all they can to ensure their ownership is protected.
Who is most at risk?
Some people are more at risk than others. Those who are more at risk are:
- Your identity has been stolen
- The property is rented
- You live overseas
- The property is vacant
- The property isn’t mortgaged (this doesn’t say that mortgaged properties aren’t targeted)
- The property is not registered with Land Registry
- Where there are family disputes, a relationship may break down and someone can mortgage a property without their partners knowledge
- Properties undergoing redevelopment
Vulnerable owners include elderly owners who are in hospital or in a care home, the property is vacant. Attempts can be made to sell or charge their property by use of identity fraud.
What can you do to prevent fraud?
There are a few steps you can make to protect your property from being fraudulently sold or mortgaged. Prevention is easier than cure. The options to prevent and minimise the risk of being the target of property fraud are as follows:
If the property is not registered at Land Registry consider making an application for voluntary first registration. You will be able to benefit from the safeguards the Land Registry have in place to prevent property fraud and in the event you are the victim of fraud the Land Registry may provide compensation.
Address for service
Keep addresses up to date to minimise risk in scenarios where the property is vacant or tenanted. You are able to register additional addresses for service. If your address for service is out of date you will not receive any such notice from the land registry and this will increase your susceptibility to fraudulent activity. The address can be another property address, an email address or the address of a professional adviser.
The Land Registry launched a monitoring service which will notify you, by email, if there has been certain activity involving the register of the property. You are then able to take immediate action should you consider the activity as suspicious. You can sign up to the Land Registry Property Alerts by clicking here.
Restriction on title
You can put a restriction on your title to prevent the Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a Conveyancer certifies the application was made by you. There is no fee to request this restriction if you are a business owner or do not live at the property. A £40.00 fee is charged to enter a restriction on the title where you live at the property.
Owners that are concerned that their property might be subject to fraudulent activity should alert the Land Registry immediately.