Today, (4 March 2014), the Land Registry is launching a new service called Property Alert aimed at anyone who thinks their property could be at risk of fraud.
Property fraud can happen in many ways. For example, fraudsters may attempt to acquire ownership of a property by using forged documents, or by impersonating the registered owner. The fraudsters may then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge before disappearing without making repayments, leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.
Land Registry’s award-winning Counter-Fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud. Between September 2009 and January 2014 Land Registry stopped fraud on properties worth more than £62 million.
Alasdair Lewis, Director of Legal Services, said:
“Following a successful trial of Property Alert, we hope that many homeowners will want to sign up for this new free service to help them protect what is probably their most valuable asset.”
People can sign up and register up to three properties to be monitored. Email alerts will be sent when Land Registry receives an application to change the register as well as for official searches. They can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious and if they should seek further advice.
For example, if you receive an alert that a bank has lodged a search on your property but you haven’t applied for a mortgage, you may want to seek legal advice, contact Action Fraud, or contact the bank in question to tell them you are the owner and have not applied for a mortgage. Investigations into the authenticity of the mortgage application can then begin much earlier in the process.
How to sign up for Property Alert:
You will need to set up an online account with Land Registry which is free – http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/propertyalert or by calling 0800 678 1678.
You’ll be able to monitor up to three properties. Email alerts are sent when official searches and applications are received against a monitored property.
Benefits of Property Alert:
- It can provide an early warning of suspicious activity
- It allows you to take immediate action if something happens to your property that you are not expecting
- It’s free and easy to use
Properties most likely to be at risk from property fraud:
- Empty properties such as where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home
- Where there are family problems. For example, when a relative dies, a family member could try to sell a property without giving someone their proper share or in a relationship break-down someone could try and mortgage a property without their partner knowing
- Tenanted properties – for example where the owner lives elsewhere, a tenant might try to mortgage or sell the property without the owner’s knowledge.
- Properties without a mortgage. According to our records nearly half of all registered residential properties are mortgage-free.
Other measures to help protect yourself against property fraud:
- Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated.
- Once registered, ensure Land Registry has up-to-date contact details so we can reach you easily. You can have up to three addresses in the register including an email address (strongly recommended) and/or an address abroad.
- Owners who do not live at the registered property can make a request to enter a restriction for free using our form RQ. This restriction means we will not register a dealing with your property, such as a transfer or a mortgage, unless a solicitor or other professional conveyancer certifies that they have checked the identity of the person who has signed the deed.
More property fraud advice is available from the Land Registry property fraud page