How to protect your property from fraud
What is property fraud?
Fraudsters can and do target properties for fraud by impersonating you, the property owner and trying to sell or mortgage your property. Leaving you to deal with the consequences. Fraud of all kinds is on the increase and by knowing how to protect yourself helps to reduce the risks. With incidents of property fraud, unfortunately also increasing in recent years, Shaun Kellaway – Conveyancing Solicitor at Harold G Walker talks about some practical steps that you can take to help protect yourself and your property.
You are more at risk if your property:
- is rented out
- is empty
- is mortgage-free
- isn’t registered with Land Registry
How can you reduce the risk of being a victim of property fraud?
- Make sure that your address is up to date at the Land Registry.
Most title fraud occurs where the Land Registry does not have a current address for the owner of a property. If you move from your property, perhaps to rent it out, or have a period of extended travel, it is really important to make sure that the Land Registry has up to date contact details for you. This ensures you receive any notices that are served in respect of the property. It is also possible to have more than one address registered and recommend registering a second address – this can even be an email address.
- Sign up to the Land Registry’s ‘Property Alert Service’
For properties that you do not occupy permanently yourself, whether it be rental properties or your residence which you vacate for part of the year, it may also be sensible to take advantage of the Land Registry’s ‘Property Alert Service’. This is a free service which enables you to receive email alerts from the Land Registry whenever certain activities occur on your property/properties. This then allows you to take action if necessary. To create an account, simply visit https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk. Even if you are not online, you can still use the service by calling the Land Registry.
- Register a restriction against the Property.
As a further measure, where you will not be living at the property, it is possible to register a restriction against the property. This aims to prevent forgery and requires a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person transferring or mortgaging the property in the future is the same person as the owner. This can be completed either at the time of purchase or retrospectively.
- Apply for first registration.
If your property is unregistered, then it is particularly vulnerable and would, therefore, suggest applying for Voluntary First Registration. This may also save time and complications when you eventually come to sell the property.
For further information about applying for first registration or any of the matters referred to above please contact the Conveyancing team.