Holy Property Fraud, Batman -Call Land Registry Hotline!
- AuthorPaul Hajek
The Land Registry, the Government department charged with detailing all property titles in the UK, beefed up its fraud prevention measures last week with the introduction of a free Fraud Hotline.
Are You Vulnerable to Property Fraud?
Did you know, and it’s true not many people know this, that your property may be at an increased risk to fraudsters in the following circumstances:
- a property is empty or has been bought to let
- an owner is spending time abroad or absent
- the owner is infirm or in a nursing or care home
- a relationship breaks down
- a property has no mortgage.
Why Is Property Fraud Such A Problem Now?
An unintended consequence of political correctness if you ask me.
Back in the day (I have been qualified as a Solicitor for over 30 years) the Land Registry Register was a private register and no one could see your details without your consent (for example when you were selling your property)
Then some bright spark decided (in no doubt a robust statement on openness and transparency) that every Tom, Dick and Dirty Harry would be able to see your details.
This was later exacerbated by Paperless Office Brigade deciding we no longer needed Land Certificates as everything could be done seamlessly and electronically.
Not for nothing did we have an elegant phrase “possession (of title deeds in this instance) was 9/10ths of the law.
The Fraudsters and Forgers were no doubt popping their champagne corks in anticipation.
That Was Then But This is Now
Unfortunately, we are where we are, so no point bleating about the point.
Fraud is a very real issue which has cost the Land Registry millions of pounds in compensation claims.
Last year, internal emails, obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, actually showed that the Land Registry tried to cover up the extent of the fraud.
How Can You Protect Your Property from Potential Property Fraud?
There are a number of easy ways to help prevent fraud:
Check to see if your property is actually registered in the first place.
About 20 per cent of land in England and Wales remains unregistered. If you then become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated.
If you have not moved home in many years and still possess your title deeds then ask your Solicitor to make a first registration of your property at the Land Registry.
Are your contact details up to date?
If your property is registered, you should make sure the contact details we hold for you are up to date. When the Land Registry receives an application regarding your property, the Land Registry may write to you about it. If your details are not up to date, you may not receive their letter or email.
Good news is that the Land Registry allows you (free of charge) to provide three different addresses, including an email address and an address abroad. For additional peace of mind, why not put the name and address of your Conveyancing Solicitors as one of the addresses.
Your Conveyancing Solicitors would only be too pleased to give you such additional peace of mind.
Do you live at the property?
For owners who do not live at the registered property, the Land Registry has introduced an additional security measure.
Under this measure you or your Conveyancing Solicitor, again free of charge, can request a restriction (i.e. no one can register a purchase without written consent from you or your Conveyancing solicitor) to be placed in the register of the title to your property.
Property Fraud is Very Real and Painful
It would be unwise to underestimate the intent of fraudsters who will no doubt try and circumvent the further security measures.
If you suspect a property fraud you are invited to call the Land Registry property fraud (hot) line on 0300 006 7030 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm) or request a call back using their online fraud reporting form
The Land Registry has more information here but if you are in doubt ring the Hotline.
You may not need the help of a super hero if you do.
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Image via Bat-Mania.co.uk