Guidance to protect you from becoming a victim of property fraud!

- Wed 15 Dec 2021

Whilst rare, the thought of falling victim to property fraud is frightening for anyone and with a recent case being well publicised earlier this year a guide to help homeowners avoid property title fraud has been released today by the Fraud Advisory Panel, HM Land Registry and the Law Society of England and Wales.

Property fraud happens when a fraudster changes the registered details of a building to pose as its owner. The fraudster then applies for a mortgage or sells the property to an unwitting buyer and disappears with the proceeds. The original owner then has to prove they were the rightful owner and start the process of reclaiming their home.

In the financial year 2020/21 HM Land Registry received 22 claims for indemnity in relation to property title fraud and paid out £3.5m worth of compensation for these claims.

People who own houses that are standing empty are particularly vulnerable to this type of fraud, as are properties which have a high value, are not mortgaged, or whose owners have recently died.

The guide said there are four main steps homeowners can take to protect themselves:

  • 1. Ensure your property is registered with HM Land Registry. This creates an official record that can be checked by anyone who needs to confirm your ownership and gives extra legal protections. You can apply for voluntary registration if your property is not already registered.
  • 2. Keep your registered details up to date in case HM Land Registry need to send you official letters or notices, which could be early signs of fraud.
  • 3. Sign up to HM Land Registry’s free online property alert service, which will give an immediate notification if someone tries to change the register for your property.
  • 4. If you’re at particular risk of property fraud, you can apply for a restriction on your title so a conveyancer will need to formally certify any sale.

Richard Greetham, Director at Bradleys Estate Agents added “Thankfully the numbers of property fraud cases are relatively low, the pain and stress, not to mention the thought that someone has stolen your home from you is sickening. The guidance is key and also to raise homeowners awareness along with the simple measures that can be taken to ensure they don’t fall victim of this awful crime.”

Bradleys Estate Agents provides sales and lettings service across Devon, Somerset and Cornwall. Each transaction whether selling, buying or letting a home will involve a series of thorough identification and title register checks, which help reduce the chance of a criminal being able to sell or let a home that they’re not entitled to do so.