In this article we look at what action can be taken to specifically safeguard against forgery of documents relating to ownership of your property.
The importance of protecting your property
Property which is not occupied by the owner is attractive to fraudsters. Last year, a mother and daughter were found guilty of fraud having impersonated the registered owner of a vacant Kensington house worth in the region of £3m. This involved the extreme step of a name change by deed poll to convince estate agents and solicitors that the individual with whom they were dealing was the owner of the property. Although the owner did not ultimately lose their property, the loan company involved had already paid out significant monies for the purchase to the tune of £1.2m, and a messy court case ensued.
A couple of steps you can take to reduce the risk
As well as the protections mentioned in our previous article, restrictions can be entered against the registered title to a property:
- These can be registered by an owner who does not reside at a property (using Land Registry Form RQ) or by a company which owns a property (using Land Registry Form RQ (Co)).
- By putting the restriction in place, before an application relating to a property can be registered at the Land Registry, a conveyancer must certify that they are satisfied that the person who signed the relevant document is the registered owner of the property.
- Applications to register such restrictions are free.
- In the case of property owned by a company this certification is two fold. It confirms that the company which signed the document is the same company as the owner, and that reasonable steps have been taken to establish that each person who signed as an officer of the company held that office at the time of signature.
- Companies may register restrictions on up to three titles to property it owns for free to protect against a person signing who is not an authorised officer of the company. Further titles can be protected for a small fee.
As mentioned previously, you can also register for the Land Registry's free property alert service (further details can be found here: Land Registry Property Alert Service)
- Up to 10 titles can be registered with alerts sent by email when applications are received against a monitored property.
- For those who are not online there is a dedicated phone line: Property Alert team 0300 006 0478.