Property Fraud - how to avoid
- AuthorNicola Reeve
Property is usually our most valuable asset - which is why property fraud is on the increase. Solicitors have a role to play in checking property transactions are genuine as the recent Dreamvar Case has highlighted, but there are also pro-active steps that you can take to protect your property against fraudulent transactions.
Are you at risk of property fraud? The risk of fraud increases if:
- your propertyis unoccupied
- your property is rented
- you live overseas
- the property is not registered at HM Land Registry
- you have no mortgage
- you have fallen victim to identity theft
So what can you do to safeguard against the risk of fraud?
- If your property isn't registered then give some thought to making a voluntary application to register the title. It is so much easier, now that on-line public access to the Land Registry is available, for fraudsters to identify unregistered land and make fraudulent applications without you being aware. A Solicitor can help you register your title and there is a reduced fee payable to HMLR for voluntary applications.
- If your title is registered then you should check the register and the contact address which HMLR has for you. Make sure that the address for service of any notices or applications is your correspondence address - there's no point in using the property address if you don't live there. Often, business owners and companies use their registered office as the contact address but if your registered office has changed or is with a third party then there may be a delay in you being alerted by HMLR to any application, legitimate or fraudulent, affecting your property or you may not receive the alert at all and so fail to take any necessary action in time. Our advice is check your title and notify HMLR of any changes.
- For added protection, In a matter of minutes, you can set up an automatic property alert with HM Land Registry so that you are notified by e-mail if there is any application made against your property e.g. to register a sale or a mortgage. You can register online for alerts for more than one property and there is no charge. Just follow this link: https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/
- You can also apply for a restriction to be put on your title to stop any sale or mortgage of your property without a certificate from a Solicitor that the transaction is by you.
Taking just a few of these steps will reduce the risk of you becoming the victim of a property fraud.
If you are a business owner or don’t live at your property then HMLR do not currently charge an application fee, but otherwise the application fee is currently £40.00.
A small price to pay in the circumstances.
Talbots Law’s Commercial Property Team are always on hand to discuss this and any other commercial property matter - for further information, please contact Nicola Reeve or call us now on 0800 118 1500.