It has been just over two months since life as we knew it changed due to Coronavirus (Covid-19). During this pandemic, many of us have self-isolated in our homes, leaving businesses and properties unoccupied. This allows fraudsters to take full advantage of the situation to make money.
Property Fraud is extremely attractive to fraudsters as they can pretend to be anyone involved in a property transaction such as the owner, buyer, borrower, lender or conveyancer. This often involves the fraudster obtaining information from HM Land Registry and using it to impersonate registered owners, forging legal documents to transfer a property into their own name. This allows them to attempt to sell or mortgage a property they do not own, enabling them to receive cash from either the purchase monies or the mortgage advance.
The owners at greater risk are:
- Unregistered owners
- Absent owners
- Beneficiaries of owners who have passed away
- Sole owners
The properties with higher risk are:
- High value properties
- Empty properties
- Properties without a mortgage
- Tenanted properties
To help the prevention of fraud HM Land Registry provides a free property monitoring service. This service allows you to monitor up to a maximum of ten properties. Once you have signed up you will receive email alerts from the Land Registry concerning certain activity that occurs on your monitored properties. Such activity includes any applications to change the register, information on who the applicant is and the date and time it has been received. This service will not automatically block any changes to the register, but it allows you to spot suspicious activities to enable you to take swift action. The alert email you receive from the Land Registry will provide you with the contact information of whom you need to contact.
All you need to do to sign up is provide a valid email address and the postcode or title number of the property(ies) you want HM Land Registry to monitor. You do not need to own the property to make a property alert, which allows you to monitor the properties of any elderly relatives or relatives abroad.
Further steps you can take to prevent fraud against your property is to put a FORM LL restriction on your title. This can stop the HM Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you. Business owners can request a restriction is put in place on company owning property. This service is also available if you do not live at the property and wish to take extra measures. There is no Land Registry fee for this. However, if you live at the property, you can still make an application for a restriction but there is a small fee of £40.
If your property is not registered at the Land Registry, you should consider making an application of for voluntary first registration because it also helps against fraud, gives you proof of ownership and makes it easier to buy and sell.
As they say prevention is better than cure.
If you would like to discuss the above or any property related matters, please do contact Piers Meadows or your individual contact at our specialist property team on 01932 852 057 or firstname.lastname@example.org