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Sold from under your feet

06 December 2021

We look at property fraud and how the Land Registry can help prevent it.

A recent example of property fraud

On 20 August 2021, Reverend Mike Hall was alerted by the neighbours of his property in Luton, that someone was in his house. On arriving in Luton, Mr Hall found that the house he owned was occupied by an unknown person who claimed he had bought the house.

Reverend Hall’s identity had been stolen and used to sell the house without his knowledge. This is much easier for fraudsters to do if a house is not occupied by the owner and people who rent homes are particularly vulnerable to their tenant pretending to be the owner.

On checking the Land Registry, Reverend Hall found that the title register had been updated and showed the unknown person to be the registered proprietor of his house.

Reverend Hall contacted the police who initially concluded that this was a civil matter and that his solicitors ought to be contacted. Reverend Hall was then put in touch with Bedfordshire Police’s fraud team, which found that his driving licence had been used to impersonate him and details of a bank account had been set up in his name to receive the proceeds of the sale.

There is a current police investigation into the matter and the handling of the transaction and there are questions as to whether sufficient identity checks were done.  Solicitors have to undertake identity checks in accordance with the money laundering regulations but fraudsters can provide sophisticated fake ID to get round these checks.

How to help prevent this

First of all, make sure that your address for service is up to date at the Land Registry, particularly if you are not living in the property. You  will find the address on the title register and if it needs changing, it will involve filling in a Land Registry form.

Secondly, register for the Land Registry property alert service.

The Land Registry property alert service helps to protect properties from fraud.

This free service allows you to;

  • monitor a property if it is already registered with HM Land Registry;
  • monitor the property of a relative; you don’t have to own a property to set up an alert;
  • choose up to 10 properties to monitor

You will receive email alerts when there is certain activity on the properties you are monitoring, for example, if there is an application to change the title register or if a new mortgage is taken out against it. The alert will tell you the type of activity, who the applicant is and the date and time it has been received.

The property alert website can be found here.

You must also ensure that your details are kept up to date with the Land Registry, for example, ensuring that your address for service is correct.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact a member of the Properties team on 0113 244 6100.

You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys on Twitter.

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. The law stated is correct at the date (stated above) this article was first posted to our website. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors

Emma Ridge View Biography

Emma Ridge

Partner
Leeds

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