Property fraud is on the rise (as I am sure you will have heard from many different sources recently), so much so that Land Registry has even introduced its own property fraud hotline (you can call them on 0300 006 7030 or even send them an email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Here are a few questions for you to consider:
- Do you own a property that you rent?
- Do you own an empty or unoccupied property?
- Do you own a property that is mortgage free?
- Do you live overseas?
- Has your identity ever been stolen?
- Is your property not registered with HM Land Registry?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are at risk, and should consider taking extra steps to protect your assets.
1. Keep your details up to date
First of all, ensure that your details are up to date. For most people (myself included!), you probably haven’t ever thought about updating the information that Land Registry holds for you. When you move house or change your surname when you get married, you undoubtedly end up with a long list of people and companies that you need to notify… Land Registry should be on this list! Many people buy a first home or flat and may then keep this as a rental property when they move up the property ladder. With the focus now on their lovely new home, there’s a strong possibility that they have forgotten to update the title register of the other property to reflect the change of address. This will be the address for service for any important notices and correspondence from Land Registry (or anyone else for that matter) relating to that property, so it must be kept up to date so you can be sure that you will receive them. If you are renting out a property, then your address for service should not be the property itself.
2. Sign up for Property Alerts
If you believe your property is at risk from fraud then you can sign up to Land Registry’s property alert service. Your property needs to be registered at Land Registry (if it isn’t already then you should seriously consider doing so) and up to 10 properties can be monitored for free. All it takes to sign up for a Property Alert account is a valid email address and the postcode or title number of the property you need to monitor. It really is that simple- we’ve tried and tested it and it does work!
You receive an email alert when official searches and applications are received against your monitored properties. If you do receive an alert, it will be up to you to take prompt action, so do ensure that any alerts you receive are not being diverted to a spam inbox!
3. Put a restriction on your property
For greater protection, you should register a restriction against the property. The Property Alert service will only notify you that someone may be trying to register a sale of your property, or a new mortgage against it, it will not block any such changes. Land Registry have recently introduced a new form of restriction to facilitate this, which will prevent the registration of a transfer or charge of your property unless a solicitor has certified that the application has been made by you. There is no fee to add this restriction to your title if you do not live at the property, you will just need to complete Form RQ and then send this to Land Registry (or ask your solicitor to assist). A company that owns property can also apply for a restriction (using Form RQ(Co)), again, there’s no fee payable to Land Registry to do so. It is also possible to register a restriction against a property you live at, using Form RX1, for which a small fee is payable.
Land Registry have introduced these additional measures to provide means of protecting yourself from the risk of fraud, and whilst there is certainly more that could be done, property owners should be taking these simple steps now to protect their valuable assets.