Preventing property fraud
Residential property transactions have become a common target for fraudsters looking to take advantage of property owners either selling or re-mortgaging their property. In most cases the fraudsters pose as the genuine seller of the property and abscond with the proceeds of sale.
All types of properties are at risk. However, some properties and owners may be an easier target than others:
- unoccupied properties
- properties which may be left empty for a long time
- tenanted properties
- properties without a mortgage
- owners who live overseas
- properties undergoing redevelopment
Ways to minimise the risk of property fraud:
- Register for the HM Land Registry property alert service. This is a free property alert service to help protect against the risk of fraud.
- Ensure your contact details at HM Land Registry are up-to-date. You can have more than one address for your contact details if necessary.
- Regularly monitor your property - if you don’t reside at the property or it is vacant for a long time ensure you/someone you trust regularly checks the property.
- Land Registry Restriction – HM Land Registry offer a service where a restriction can be registered against the property title. This stops HM Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage of your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies that the genuine owner made the application. However, our experience has been that these restrictions can be difficult to remove and may cause delay to any future sale/mortgage of the property.
- Insurance - unfortunately we cannot completely eliminate the risk of fraud. There will always be a risk that the person selling the property is not the genuine owner. To cover this risk some insurers now offer property fraud insurance.
- Remain vigilant - there has been an increase in fraudsters posing as solicitors. The fraudster may send you correspondence pretending to be your solicitor asking you to transfer money to a different bank account from the one you possess. If you receive correspondence like this, it’s unlikely to be genuine. Do not respond or act upon the information. Instead, contact your solicitor using their existing details (not those given in the correspondence).
Further fraud ‘red flags’ are listed in The Law Society and HM Land Registry's joint advice note on property and title fraud on their website.
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