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Can you Prevent Property Fraud?

Please note that the information herein is of a general nature and you should not act or refrain from acting on it without professional advice on the specific facts of your case. No liability is accepted by the author or Sykes Anderson Perry Limited in respect of this article. This is a basic outline only and is intended only as a general guide.

How high is the risk of your property being sold by a fraudster?

The answer is very high if you do not have appropriate safeguards in place.

The Risk:

Property hijacking and other types of property fraud happen every day right under our noses. Properties at high risk are those lying empty, let to tenants, mortgage free and unregistered properties which HM Land Registry do not have ownership details recorded for.

The most common type of property fraud is where a fraudulent seller pretends to be the registered owner of the property. This could be a tenant you let your property to or a fraudster who has caught wind that your property is either empty or mortgage free. This is easy to do as the Landor of the property and try to sell to cash buyers

How do you prevent fraud?

There are things you can do to protect yourself. The most important is to ensure that you sign up for ‘property alerts’ from the Land Registry. This allows the Land Registry to send you an alert any time someone tries to change the registers on the property, for example to change proprietor or register a charge. Although this does not prevent a fraudulent sale it will inform you immediately that the application is being made to change the register and you can then do something about this. If you are a landlord and own multiple properties which are let to tenants, you may sign up to alerts for up to ten properties for free.

You can also place an anti-fraud restriction on the property title register. This will prevent any sale or change of ownership from going through without a solicitor or conveyancer certifying that the application has been made on your behalf. This puts more onus on solicitors or conveyancers as they must carry out stringent checks in identifying the seller. Remember it is very easy to change your name by deed poll and a fraudulent seller can go to the extremes of changing their name to yours in order to be correctly identified as the proprietor. This is why when your solicitor is identifying you they may ask for multiple forms of ID such as a photograph drivers licence, passport and proof of address.

For property advice please contact Gemma Wright, Director of the Residential Property department.

Anushka Trivedi
Trainee Solicitor
August 2017