Property is usually the most valuable asset people own. It can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and is therefore an attractive target for fraudsters. The properties most vulnerable to fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free. Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners who are absent for whatever reason; for example because the owner may live abroad, buy to let landlords, the elderly not living in their properties because they may be in long term hospital or residential care, and where a relationship has broken down.
Land Registry’s top tips to help owners protect their property from fraudsters are:
- First of all make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you will be compensated.
- Once registered make sure your contact details are up-to-date so we can reach you easily.
- You can have up to three addresses on the register; email addresses or an address abroad can be used. The more information you provide, the more chance we have of reaching you if we need to.
- Owners who feel their property might be at risk can have a restriction entered on their property which is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.
From 1 February 2012, there is no Land Registry fee for home owners to register this restriction, as long as they do not live in the property they wish to protect. Owner occupiers will continue to pay a small fee.
Malcolm Dawson, Chief Land Registrar said:
“Today’s launch of our ‘Top Tips’ shows how important it is to let home owners know what simple steps they can take to protect their property – one of which is now the ability for those at greatest risk to have a free restriction entered which might prevent their property from being targeted by fraudsters and stolen unawares.
“We have introduced a range of additional safeguards in the last four years and we also work closely with other organisations to do all we can to tackle fraud and identify and take corrective action when it has happened. But home owners must also be vigilant and play their own part in protecting their properties against fraud.”
People who own empty properties might include those living abroad and the elderly in long term hospital or residential care. In 2010, 30 of the 71 claims paid out by Land Registry for fraud and forgery were by non-family members. Of these, 23 involved properties with an absent owner and amounted to £2m out of the total £7.3m paid for fraud and forgery claims.
Home owners who do not live at their property or their conveyancer can submit a request for the restriction to be entered on the register free of charge using form RQ which can be downloaded from www1.landregistry.gov.uk/property-information/property-fraud The completed form should be sent to the Land Registry Birkenhead Office, Rosebrae Court, Woodside Ferry Approach, Birkenhead, Merseyside CH41 6DU.
Owner occupiers can complete Form RX1 http://www1.landregistry.gov.uk/upload/documents/RX1.pdf with the Form LL restriction. There is a £50 fee for this service. The completed form should be sent to the Land Registry office serving the area where the property is located. The wording of a restriction is very important and it is advisable to seek advice from a solicitor or conveyancer if protecting property in this way.