Over the past year, and as reported by the BBC, the UK has seen nearly 600 claims made to the Land Registry in relation to identity fraud resulting in fraudulent property transactions which is a rise from 540 such claims made in 2020-2021.
The following situations will increase the risk of property fraud:
- Your property isn’t registered with Land Registry (i. e. if the property hasn’t been sold since 1990s)
- You don’t live in the property you own and the property is either left empty or it’s let out
- There is no mortgage on your property
- Your identity has previously been stolen
How can I protect my property?
Since property fraud has been on the rise, both the Land Registry and the national media/press have been warning the public of the risks involved in having someone’s identity stolen in order to sell or mortgage their property and the gravity of having one’s house taken away from them.
The Government and the Land Registry have issued various guidance on how to protect your land and property from fraud but some of the suggestions do not go far enough and may still leave you exposed.
Whilst ensuring any correspondence (letters or emails) or documentation containing your personal data is always safeguarded and discarded safely, you can take the following additional steps to protect your property from fraudsters:
- Register your property with the Land Registry - most properties will now be registered at the Land Registry but if not then this is the first essential step.
- Set up a Property Alert account and sign up to the Property Alert free service with the Land Registry - https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/. It is a free property monitoring service and the Land Registry will notify you if someone changed or attempted to change the details of your property online (e.g. putting a mortgage on your property). However, this could be too late!
- Put a formal “restriction” on your title – this is the most recommended route and can be applied for by anyone (individual or company) who owns a property in the UK so that the Land Registry will be stopped from registering any sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies that the application to change the title was made by you.
Taking all the above steps should give you reasonable comfort. However, whilst the Property Alert service is available for free, it is merely a notification service which will not necessarily prevent fraudulent transaction from occurring.
We would recommend that entering a formal “restriction” on the title is the single most effective way to protect your property and we would be happy to assist you and your family or your business. We are seeing an increasing number of requests for protection and we can ensure that the form of restriction ensures that you are sufficiently protected.