Protecting you and your property against fraud

  • Posted

For many of us, our property is the most valuable asset we own. It can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and can therefore be an attractive target for fraudsters. Property fraud manifests itself in many ways. For example, a fraudster might forge documents to convince a mortgage lender or solicitor that they own the property, and mortgage your property without your knowledge. The fraudster might also use identity theft to impersonate a seller and obtain the proceeds from the sale of the property.

Properties that are tenanted, or vacant, or being refurbished and are mortgage free are considered most at risk from fraudsters. However, those properties that are occupied by the owners and have a mortgage can still be targeted.

Many homeowners will be unaware that information held by the Land Registry is available to view by anyone through the Land Registry’s website. Unfortunately, this includes fraudsters who can easily find out who owns a property and obtain their correspondence address, lender details and even samples of their signature.

What can I do to protect my property?

There are several ways to protect your property:

Register an Anti-Fraud Restriction on your property title

The best option available which will prevent any changes to the title to your property is by registering an Anti-Fraud Restriction with the Land Registry. The restriction is entered on the title to the property and states that any application to change the register must be accompanied by a certificate from a Solicitor, stating that they are satisfied that the person who has signed the documents is the same person as the owner.

Our fees for dealing with this are usually £150 plus VAT but during lockdown, when there is heightened concern about fraudsters taking advantage of the current situation, we have reduced this to £75 plus VAT. Land registry fees will also be payable for those owners who live at the property. There is no Land Registry fee for those owners that do not live at the property.

Anti-fraud property alerts from Land Registry

If your property is registered with Land Registry, you also can sign up to its free property monitoring service. This means that if someone applies to change the register of your property, or if certain activities occur, you will receive an email alert. This option will not automatically block any changes made to the register but will alert you so that prompt action can be taken.

Register your property

If your property is unregistered, then consider voluntarily registering it at Land Registry. The title can then be protected as above.

Our fees for dealing with a voluntary registration are usually £350 plus VAT but again during lockdown we have reduced this to £250 plus VAT. Land registry fees will also be payable and these will depend on the value of the property in question.

Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney

For those with property interests – whether their main residence alone, or rental properties – having an up-to-date Will and Power of Attorney is also an integral part of protecting themselves and their affairs. More information is available on request, to include protecting assets in the event of mental incapacity; and protecting assets from Inheritance Tax, care home fees, divorce or remarriage etc, in the event of death.

Summary

At this time, perhaps more than ever, the true value of our homes is becoming apparent. Taking a few simple steps to protect them against fraud for you and your family can help to achieve peace of mind in an uncertain world. For more information or advice about any of the above, please contact us.