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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 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

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.

UK Land Registry Launches Property Fraud Hotline

UK Land Registry Launches Property Fraud Hotline

A new fraud line has just been launched that allows property owners who are concerned that their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage quickly alert the UK Land Registry.

Callers can speak to specially trained staff for practical guidance about what to do next.

The telephone number is 0300 006 7030

Lines are open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

The types of properties most vulnerable to fraudulent registrations or even mortgage fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free residential properties.

Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners who do not live in the property because they live abroad, buy to let landlords, are in long term hospital or residential care or where a relationship has broken down. Other high risk property types include a landlord’s previous residential address that has since become a rental property controlled by the owner.

Examples of property fraud include situations where a buy to let landlord gets a call from a local estate agent saying that one of his rental properties seems to be being marketed for sale or where a relative learns the property has been ’stolen’ by a fraudster impersonating the deceased proprietor.

Alasdair Lewis, Director of Legal Services said: “Fraud affects all parts of today’s society and everyone in it, costing this country an estimated £38 billion each year. Government has a zero tolerance to fraud against the public purse but in order to fight fraud, everyone needs to work together. The need for everyone to play their part is just as relevant in the fight against property fraud as in other contexts. Our award-winning Counter-Fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud. Since September 2009, our measures have prevented fraud valued at £52 million but with an average indemnity payout of some £150,000, fraud is still a fundamental risk to our business.”

Additionally, as part of its commitment to a range of counter-fraud measures, Land Registry’s trial of a free restriction for absent owners is being continued. 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 home owners who wish to register this restriction as long as they do not live in the property. Owner occupiers pay a small fee.

Land Registry’s Counter-Fraud Unit picked up the top prize in the Fraud Prevention Category at the inaugural Fighting Fraud Awards, supported by the National Fraud Authority, in December 2012.

Land Registry’s top tips to help owners protect their property from fraudsters:

  • Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated.
  • Once registered, have up-to-date contact details so we can reach you easily.
  • You can have up to three addresses on the register, email addresses or an address abroad can be used. The more information you provide, the more chance we have of reaching you if we need to.

Quick Property Sales Fraud Risk

The FSA has warned homeowners in financial difficulties who are looking to sell their home fast to beware of committing fraud.

FSA Warns of BMV Property Fraud

FSA Warns of BMV Property Fraud

The financial regulator says it has evidence that some below market value (BMV) or distressed property sales may involve fraud, where the buyer (a company or an individual), asks the selling homeowner to state that the property has been sold for its full open market value, rather than the agreed purchase price.

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A UK Land Registry worker used their position of trust to supply title deeds and ownership signatures to a property fraud gang who made millions by stealing other people’s homes.

Surjeet Chana, a worker at the Land Registry, along with a solicitor, a bank manager and drug traffickers targeted the elderly and vulnerable, typically, people who had moved into care homes, or were left to deal with probate estates

The gang swooped on empty houses, erecting estate-agency style signs outside, with the name and number of a bogus security firm.

If this led to no inquiries, the gang then changed the name on the title deeds and sold the property to unsuspecting purchasers.

One victim of the con, Freda Gallacher, a retired widow, had been granted probate of her late brother’s estate, including his house. When she went to see it, she was greeted with abuse from the new owner. Her brother’s name on the deeds had been replaced by someone else’s and the locks changed. Ms Gallacher said: “The whole experience has left me in near financial ruin and certainly taken a toll on my health. It is clear to me that I have been a victim of failings within the Land Registry.”

Another person had moved out of her home following a traumatic burglary, leaving their possessions behind and planning to return to it one day.

Police subsequently told them that they no longer owned the property.

At least nine properties together worth £3.8 Million (GBP) were known to have been targeted across South London, but detectives believe that many more homes changed hands due to the gang’s work.

Land Registry worker Surjeet Chana, 64, was instrumental to the plot, using her position of trust to supply title deeds and ownership signatures.

Detectives found £38,000 in cash in the loft of Chana’s £600,000 home.

Prosecuting attorney, Mark Gadsden, told a sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court: “This case concerns sophisticated property fraud and money laundering. The gang targeted unoccupied properties, pretended to be the lawful owners and then sold them on to unsuspecting third parties for large profits. Unsurprisingly, they left chaos in their wake. The crime was thoroughly amoral – criminality motivated solely by greed. Integral to the success of the fraud were a number of corrupt individuals and insiders.”

Ms Chana, who worked in the Land Registry’s customer information centre in Croydon, South London, was suspended from her job as a registration officer following her arrest in 2010 and was later dismissed after 33 years of service.

Another key conspirator was conveyancing solicitor Charles Spiropoulos, who worked for Andrews and Co solicitors in Peckham, London.

“He did the conveyancing for some of the properties, in the full knowledge that they were fraudulent sales,” Mr Gadsden said.

He said a business manager at Barclays in Purley, who cannot be named for legal reasons, helped the conspirators to launder the proceeds.

Judge Michael Grieve QC adjourned the hearing until tomorrow, when Chana will be sentenced along with Spiropoulos and a third man for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

A Land Registry spokesman said that victims would be offered compensation. have featured many stories about property fraud including Donna Jeavons property investment horror story – Read it here!

In the four years to the end of 2010, the Land Registry paid out £26 Million (GBP) in compensation to victims of property title fraud.

For landlords whose properties may fall void, this latest case underlines the importance of putting in place extra security measures on Land Registry documents. Speak to a solicitor to arrange these extra checks, which the Land Registry itself strongly recommends.

Landlord Sally Lawson offers help and advice for landlords worried about property theft and Tenant Identity Fraud – Read It Here

The Land Registry has waived its fees for landlords who want an extra security function in a bid to counteract increasing property fraud.

From 1st February 2012, UK landlords will no longer have to pay for restrictions to be entered on their residential rental properties deeds at the Land Registry.

The restriction is designed to help prevent property fraud by requiring that a competent solicitor or property conveyancer must certify that they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the rightful and true owner of the property.

Home owner occupiers will have to continue paying a small fee for the charge, but the new exemption extends to buy-to-let investors and others not living in the property they wish to protect, including elderly people in long-term care or people who have moved out of their home after a relationship breakdown.

Landlords are at a proven higher risk of property fraud than homeowner-occupiers, and there have been cases where tenants have passed themselves off as the owner of the property and attempted to sell it or raise money on it via a mortgage.

See additional “Spotlight” articles about Property Fraud

By law the Land Registry must compensate the rightful owners of a registered property if there is sufficient evidence of a property fraud.

In 2010, 30 of the 71 claims paid out by the Land Registry for fraud and forgery were by non-family members.

Of these, 23 involved properties with an absent owner and amounted to £2 Million (GBP) out of the total £7.3 Million (GBP) compensation paid.

Landlords are urged to take up the land registry safeguard and also to take extra action to prevent ID and property fraud:

  • Use the Post Office’s mail redirection service if you have lived in the property yourself and are now renting it out. Use the service for at least a year.
  • Be extremely careful about details you give out on social networking sites like Facebook. Do not give out personal information such as date of birth.
  • Ensure that all your properties are registered with the Land Registry.
  • Ensure that all your contact details are updated and correct, so that the Land Registry can get hold of you if it wants to query anything.
  • Utilise the Land Registry facility to have three addresses on the register. Email addresses, as well as physical addresses, can be included.
  • Finally, use the free facility described above to enter a restriction on your property, requiring your solicitor to certify that the person attempting to sell or mortgage the property is the owner.

Chief Land Registrar, Malcolm Dawson, said: “It is important to let home owners know what simple steps they can take to protect their property, one of which is now the ability for those at greatest risk to have a free restriction entered which might prevent their property from being targeted by fraudsters and stolen unawares. We have introduced a range of additional safeguards in the last four years and we also work closely with other organisations to do all we can to tackle fraud and identify and take corrective action when it has happened. But home owners must also be vigilant and play their own part in protecting their properties against fraud.”

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