An increasing number of people in the UK are being affected by property fraud. This blog provides details of the dangers of these scams and how you can avoid falling into the trap of being defrauded of what may well be your most valuable asset.
What is property fraud?
There are numerous types of property fraud being committed by scammers all over the country. The most common type is where fraudsters will try and sell or re-mortgage your property without your knowledge – leaving you to deal with the consequences.
Other types of property fraud can involve being duped into investing in property with the promise of it being developed and making you into a millionaire, but the property may be derelict with no prospects of such development, or it may not even exist.
A recent example of property fraud can be found in the case “Davisons Solicitors (a firm) v Nationwide Building Society ”
This involved a law firm becoming party to an incident of property fraud while acting for Nationwide Building Society. On ‘completion’ of the fraudulent transaction a mortgage advance was released to a seller's solicitors who, despite appearing to exist on the Law Society and SRA databases, were actually fraudsters.
Am I at risk?
Properties with a higher risk of being defrauded include the following:-
- Vacant properties
- Mortgage free properties
- Property where the owner is not in occupation (i.e. rented or the owner is spends periods away for example)
- Unregistered properties
Fraudsters are able to target these types of properties more easily than say an occupied, mortgaged property that is registered at the Land Registry.
How can I protect myself?
Land Registry offer a monitoring service where you can create an alert for up to 10 properties. You do not have to own the property yourself to enrol for this service. If any activity occurs on a property you have requested an alert for, you will be notified by email.
Make sure your property is registered at the Land Registry. It is important to keep contact details for yourself, as owner, up to date to ensure any correspondence sent by the Land Registry reaches you.