Avoid Property Fraud

Avoid Property Fraud

There has been a great deal of stuff and nonsense bandied about by the media concerning property fraud over recent months, however, most of it has been fairly erronious.

To mark the launch of the UK Land Registry’s “Property Fraud Hotline” earlier this month, here are a few tips to help landlords and property owners to protect the registration of their assets.

  1. Property fraud can happen in many ways. Fraudsters may attempt to acquire ownership of a property either by using a forged document to transfer it into their own name, or by impersonating the registered owner. Once they have raised money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge, they disappear without making repayments leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.
  2. The property fraud line on 0300 006 7030 is available from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday. An online reporting form is also available at http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/contact-us/report-fraud or customers who prefer to email or wish to contact Land Registry outside business hours.
  3. The line is not a substitute for reporting allegations of fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 (who will pass your report on to the police) or for taking independent legal advice.
  4. In 2011, half of the 52 claims paid out by Land Registry for fraud and forgery were by non-family members. Of these, 22 involved properties with an absent owner and amounted to £1.5 Million (GBP) out of the total £7.2 Million (GBP) paid for fraud and forgery claims.
  5. Two publications for property owners are available free from Land Registry – Public Guide 17 How to safeguard against property fraud and Public Guide 2 Keeping your address for service up to date.
  6. With the largest transactional database of its kind detailing over 23 million titles, Land Registry underpins the economy by safeguarding ownership of many billions of pounds worth of property.
  7. As a government department established in 1862, executive agency and trading fund responsible to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Land Registry keeps and maintains the Land Register for England and Wales. The Land Register has been an open document since 1990.
  8. For further information about Land Registry visit www.landregistry.gov.uk

The UK Land Registry’s trial of a free restriction for absent owners is being continued, so far around 5,000 properties have been protected in this way since the trial began in February 2012.

Designed to help prevent forgery, the restriction requires a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.

There is no Land Registry fee for property owners who wish to register this restriction as long as they do not live in the property, (i.e landlords).

Owner occupiers will have to pay a small fee.

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