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Living in France with English Buy to Let investments - Protect yourself against property fraud

This article is for general information only. Property law is a highly specialised area and you should only act or refrain from acting after receiving full professional advice on the facts of your particular case. This article is for general information and does not constitute investment advice. Always consult an IFA.

It is quite common for people retiring to France to keep at least one property in England either as a buy-to-let rental property or as a pied à terre. There is a lot to be said for this but it has some unexpected risks as you will probably not be aware of any fraudulent sale or remortgaging of the property. It is difficult to get any figures as to how prevalent this is but the risks increase considerably if you live abroad and do not know the tenant in your property. There is however something you can do for free to protect yourself.

HM Land Registry Properties Alert service www.propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk allows anyone (not just the owner) to register for email alerts if there is any dealing or proposed dealing with a property. This allows anyone with an interest in a property to be instantly informed. The principal reason for the facility is to prevent property fraud, though it is also useful in other circumstances.

An example of a specific activity is someone trying to register a mortgage, or change the ownership of the property. The service is free.

Landlords who live abroad are particularly vulnerable to their tenants posing as the owner of the property and either selling the property fraudulently, or fraudulently obtaining mortgage finance on it. A landlord living abroad may not be aware of a “for sale” sign outside their property or the property being marketed in the local paper. This is why registering for the Land Registry Properties Alerts is strongly advisable for them.

December 2016

David Anderson