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Minimising the risk of Property Fraud
In light of the recent Court of Appeal decisions in Dreamvar v Mishcon de Reya and P & P Property v Owen White and Catlin, a number of clients have been asking us how they can protect their properties against being fraudulently sold or mortgaged.

The Properties which are most at risk of potential fraud are those where:

The owner’s identity has been stolen
The owner is a sole owner
The owner lives overseas or in in a care home
The property is vacant
The property is rented out
The property is not mortgaged

Property fraud is evolving and becoming more and more sophisticated every day. This, together with the increased use of advanced technology and hacking is making it more difficult to detect. It is therefore extremely important to use any means which is available to protect your property.

Here is some useful information and advice:

Property Alert Service

This is a free service provided by the Land Registry. You can sign up and register up to 10 properties and you will receive property alerts if someone applies to change the register of any of these properties.

How it works

You may receive an alert that a bank has lodged a search on your property but you haven’t applied for a mortgage.  This will prompt you to seek legal advice, or contact the bank in question to tell them you are the owner and have not applied for a mortgage. Investigations into the authenticity of the mortgage application can then begin much earlier in the process.

This will not automatically  block any changes to the register but it will alert you when something changes so that you can take action.

Restrictions

You can apply to the Land Registry for a restriction to be placed on your properties.

This is an effective way of protecting your property as a restriction will stop the Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless the conveyance or solicitor certifies the application was made by you.

This does not, however, protect you in a situation where a fraudster has stolen your identity and has produced to the conveyancer or solicitor counterfeit identification which on the face of it looks genuine. Also a solicitor may be presented with a genuine passport where the fraudster has changed name by Deed Poll (to the name of the owner which is registered on the title to the property). Therefore the best way to utilise this protective measure is to use it together with the Property Alert service detailed above, rather than as an alternative.

The types of restrictions vary depending on circumstance:

Restrictions for owners not living at the Property

The entry at the Land Registry will state:

“No disposition of the registered estate by the proprietor of the registered estate is to be registered without a certificate signed by a conveyancer that that conveyancer is satisfied that the person who executed the document submitted for registration as disponor is the same person as the proprietor.”


Restrictions for Properties owned by Companies

The entry at the Land Registry will state:

“No disposition of the registered estate by the proprietor of the registered estate is to be completed by registration without a certificate signed by a conveyancer that the conveyancer is satisfied that (1) the company which executed the document submitted for registration as disponor is the same company as the proprietor, and (2) reasonable steps have been taken to establish that each person who signed as an officer of the company held the stated office at the time of execution.”

There is no Land Registry fee to apply to register in these circumstances.  If you are living at the Property you can still register a restriction, the fee for which is £40.

For both property fraud methods to be successful you should ensure your details are up to date. The Land Registry allows you to have 3 addresses (including email addresses) noted on the title.  It is important that these are accurate so that the Land Registry can contact you easily. Unfortunately it is impossible to protect against all fraud scenarios but what action is available to property owners should be taken to minimise the risks.

 


Surina Cohen is Partner at JPC Law
For more information and advice, please contact her.
t: 020 7644 6098
General enquiries:
t: 020 7625 4424

 

 

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