Property fraud, whilst still quite rare, is on the increase and, if you become a victim, can be very distressing and time consuming to correct. Your risk of property fraud is higher if your property is rented out, mortgage-free, not registered, empty or you live elsewhere.
According to the HM Land Registry Land and Property Blog one of the most common types of fraud is where someone first steals your identity and then sells or mortgages your property by pretending to be you. To help combat this type of fraud the Land Registry has introduced a Property Alert System, which is free to use and open to all, providing the property is registered. To guarantee ownership we always recommend that a property is registered with the Land Registry. If your property is not registered we recommend that you carry out voluntary first registration. Once your property is registered you will be able to take advantage of the Property Alert service.
Firstly you will need to register a Property Alert Account with the Land Registry and agree to their terms and conditions. You will be able to add or delete properties from your account and the service can be used for up to 10 properties. You do not need to be the owner of a property to add it to your list – you can monitor property on behalf of relatives too.
Each time an official search or application is received by the Land Registry for any of your monitored properties an email alert will be triggered to advise you. The alert provides information as to the type of activity, who the applicant is and the date and time it has been received. This will enable you to take action if the activity is suspicious and not expected, and whilst not all activity will be fraudulent, the service will hopefully prevent any fraud from taking place.
If you feel your property is at risk it is also possible to register a restriction on a property with the Land Registry. This is designed to prevent a transfer or mortgage of the property without a Solicitor confirming that it really is you who is carrying out the transaction. This is a free service if you do not live in the property you wish to protect.
For legal advice in relation to residential property matters, including voluntary first registration, please contact Laura Finnigan or Carly Callaghan (both pictured) at Thompson Smith and Puxon on 01206 574431 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.