The ongoing fight against fraud is often at the forefront of our minds when it comes to banking, credit cards and, more recently, cybercrime. However, we don’t always think about property fraud and how criminals have sold or mortgaged properties fraudulently, and without the legal owners knowing until it is too late!
HM Land Registry advises that you are more at risk of property fraud if:
- your identity’s been stolen
- you rent out your property
- you live overseas
- the property’s empty
- the property isn’t mortgaged
- the property isn’t registered with HM Land Registry (your property will be registered if you bought or mortgaged it since 1998 – but you can check with them here.
How does property fraud occur?
Fraudsters can take advantage of the above situations by, for example, lodging a false charge on your property register, giving them a legal interest in the property. Also, they have been known to steal an owner’s identity, and sell the property from under the rightful owner’s nose (especially if the property is vacant/tenanted)!
What is the property alert scheme?
In order to help and protect property owners, the Land Registry provide a free Property Alert Scheme. Once signed up, you can monitor up to ten properties. If there are any changes to the title register (including an official search with priority – used by potential buyers of the property), then you will receive an instant notification of this change, allowing you to take the appropriate action. If you feel that there has been an act of fraud, you should contact HM Land Registry property fraud line on 0300 006 7030 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Our conveyancing team here at Stephensons do all we can to assist both buyers and sellers in preventing property fraud. During the conveyancing transaction, we offer guidance on the steps you need to take. We also carry out our own security checks, such as enforcing extra identity verification requirements if a seller does not live in the property being sold. Also, once you have purchased a property and we have registered you as the new owners with HM Land Registry, we will provide you with a copy of the register for your records.
Whilst we make every effort to protect you and your property against fraud, we also recommend that all property owners take advantage of the Land Registry’s Property Alert Scheme, to ensure that you are extra vigilant and have ongoing piece of mind throughout your ownership. To find out more about the property alert service, or to register for free, visit https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/ or email email@example.com
If you would like to enquire about our award-winning conveyancing services, or would like a quote, please contact us on 0175 321 6399.