12th Oct 2016

Don’t fall victim to Property Fraud...

We’re regularly warned about theft – told to shut windows, lock doors and keep expensive goods out of sight – but did you know your property could be at risk too?

Property fraud – where the scammers try to “steal” your property by pretending to be you – is on the rise and it’s something you need to take seriously. It could result in a third party registering a mortgage against your home or even worse, having your property sold from under you.

The case of a 47 acre site in Sunningdale, Berkshire, which sold for £6.5 million without the knowledge of the absentee owner, a Saudi Sheikh stands out. But the super-rich aren’t the only victims of crime, as a retired couple from Harborne, Birmingham discovered.

With their children grown up and the mortgage paid off, the couple took the decision to sell their Victorian semi-detached home, worth about £600,000, and downsize. The discovery that a fraudster had managed to change the ownership of their home with the Land Registry without their knowledge came as a shock and measures were required to rectify the issue.

There are a number of high risk factors, including having your identity stolen, renting out your property, living overseas, or, like the couple from Birmingham, owning a property without a mortgage.

Like locking your doors and closing windows you need to take action to protect your property – something a solicitor can offer you guidance on.

What steps can you take?

When we move house we remember to notify the bank and utility companies but often overlook updating our address at the land registry – check your details are up to date.

The land registry also has a “property alert service”, which is aimed at anyone who feels a registered property could be at risk from fraud. Consider signing up – you’ll receive email alerts when certain activities occur on your monitored properties, allowing you to take action if necessary.

Another option is putting a restriction on your title. This will stop the Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you.

Alternatively, if your title is unregistered, apply for a voluntary first registration with the land registry.

Don’t be caught out – take action to protect your property today.

Michelle Crowhurst is an Associate Director at Berwins Solicitors and has 30 years of experience in Residential Property Law.

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