A recent case heard at Bolton Crown Court saw a tenant imprisoned for fraudulently selling his landlord’s property. The tenant used his landlord’s identity to sell the property to an innocent purchaser and in doing so duped two sets of solicitors.
This is hopefully a rare occasion, but undoubtedly one that every landlord must fear. Properties which are rented and mortgage free are most at risk from this type of fraud. So what can landlords do to protect their properties?
Landlords or their agents should ensure that they carry out full and thorough checks of all new tenants, including credit checks and references from previous landlords.
If a landlord has previously lived at the property all utility companies should be made aware that the property is now rented, and any mail providers notified of the change of address.
The landlord’s address for service of documents at the Land Registry should be amended so that any correspondence concerning the property is received by the landlord and not sent to the property.
The best form of protection has recently been provided by the Land Registry’s new restriction, RQ which is currently being piloted countrywide. A RQ restriction is placed on the electronic register against the property to alert any would be purchaser that the property is rented. The RQ restriction is currently free to register and worthwhile to provide comfort to landlords.
If you believe that you are about to become victim of property fraud then you should contact the police and the Land Registry immediately and obtain legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
By residential landlord solicitor, Louise Hebborn