Property fraud can happen to anyone and even those properties with mortgages are still at risk. 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.
You are more at risk of property fraud if:
- your identity has been stolen
- you rent out your property
- you live overseas
- the property is empty (particularly for example where you work away from home, the owner is deceased or in a care home).
- the property is being refurbished
- the property is not mortgaged
- the property is not registered with HM Land Registry
All property transfers now have to be registered at the HM Land Registry and this can place your property at risk (if you are unsure if your property is registered you can check at HM Land Registry). Many homeowners will be unaware that information held at the Registry is available to view by anyone through the Land Registry website. Unfortunately this includes fraudsters, who can easily find out who owns a property.
So how can you protect your land and property from fraud?
Sign up to Property Alert
Property Alert is HM Land Registry’s free property monitoring service for anyone who feels their registered property could be at risk from fraud. Once you have signed up to the service, you will receive email alerts when certain activity occurs on your monitored properties, allowing you to take action if necessary.
The alert will tell you the type of activity (such as an application to change the register), who the applicant is and the date and time it has been received.
Although this will not automatically block any changes to the register, the property alert notification will advise you when something changes so that you can take action.
Not all alert emails will mean fraudulent activity. If you do not think the alert email is about any suspicious activity, you do not need to do anything. But if you think that the activity on the property is potentially fraudulent you will be able to act quickly and the alert email will tell you who to contact.
You do not have to own a property to set up an alert. So you can use this method if you are looking after another person’s property because they reside in a care home or the owner is deceased and the property is vacant.
You can get alerts for up to 10 properties - there is no fee - it is a free service.
If you think that you are a victim of fraud please contact the HM Land Registry directly:
HM Land Registry property fraud line
Telephone: 0300 006 7030
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm
Enter a Restriction on the Register
Another way you can prevent fraud is to have a Restriction entered on the register. This is intended to stop certain applications such as a sale or mortgage to be registered on the title, unless a conveyancer or solicitor confirms the application was made by you.
The Land Registry do not charge a fee for this as long as the registered owners do not live at the property address they wish to protect. This is particularly useful where the property in question is tenanted, mortgage free or you do not live at the property.
If the registered owners do reside at the property you can still apply for a restriction but the land registry charge a fee, currently £40.00.
The restriction provides an additional safeguard against forgery by operating as a deterrent.
For further information please take a look at the Land Registry's helpful guidance.
If you are concerned about property fraud and would like to register your property or register a restriction against your property’s title, please contact Girlings Solicitors Residential Property team who will be happy to help.
Please read Reliance on information posted in our Terms of Website Use - see Legal section - before relying on this commentary.