Conveyancing Update: Protecting Against Property Fraud

Property fraud is surprisingly quite common.   In 2018 the Land Registry reported that 71% of fraud committed in that year was property fraud and 2022 could see record levels.

The pandemic has made things worse. It has meant you can purchase a property without meeting your mortgage broker, surveyors, and conveyancing solicitors in person.  With communication taking place over emails and phone calls it is even easier for fraudsters to infiltrate and impersonate as one of the parties involved

What is property fraud?

Property fraud is where someone pretends to be you, in order to sell or mortgage your property.   It is important to be aware of the risk of property fraud, and to ensure that you are as protected as you can be.

Prevention is always better than cure, so reduce your risk of property fraud by:

You may be more at risk of property fraud if:

  • You have already had your identity stolen previously
  • You rent out your property/properties
  • The property you own is empty (for short or long periods of time)
  • The property you own does not have a mortgage
  • The property isn’t registered with HM Land Registry

How can I protect my house from fraud?

One way of protecting yourself from this is to make sure that you have access to your credit history and rating so that you can monitor soft and hard searches of your credit history. There are many companies that now offer this for free.

You should also make sure that your address for service at the Land Registry is up to date. This is the address that the Land registry will use to contact you. If you own a property but don’t live there, make sure that you have the address of where you live noted on the register.

You can have more than one address which can include an email address and overseas address if necessary.

Register your property with HM Land Registry

Make sure your property is registered.  This will ensure compensation if you lose money as a result of being a victim of property fraud.   If it hasn’t make a voluntary application for First Registration taking advantage of the reduced Land Registry fee for this service.

Most properties in the UK are registered. Properties that haven’t changed owner since the 1990s may not be. You can check if your property is registered using this Gov UK service.

Put a restriction on your title

If you apply to the Land Registry for a restriction, you can stop activity occurring on your property such as someone attempting to put a mortgage on the property.

There are a number of forms available if:

You can also sign up to get property alerts from the government website.   This will notify you if there are any changes to the register of your property, for example – someone trying to use your property for mortgage.    You can sig up to the property alert service at the Land Registry propertyalert@landregistry.gov.uk.

What can I do if I am a victim of property fraud?

If you think you may have been the victim of property fraud contact the Land Registry Property Fraud Help Line on 0300 006 7030 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm) or email reportafraud@landregistry.gov.uk.

 

Please contact our experienced and friendly Residential Conveyancing Team if you would like further information or assistance on 01904 624903 or email reception@guestwalker.co.uk.

Amanda Alden
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