Hundreds of callers have used Land Registry’s property fraud line to access help in the two years since its launch.
The property fraud line was launched on 5 February 2013 for home-owners to alert Land Registry if they are worried their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage.
Callers can speak to specially trained staff for practical guidance about what to do next. The telephone number is 0300 006 7030 and the line is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday. There is also an email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr and Mrs Simpson (names have been changed) were joint owners of their house before their death. After they died, it took their family some time to sort out the sale of their property and other legal matters.
One day Mrs Young, Mr Simpson’s sister-in-law, was driving past the house when she saw a ‘sold’ sign outside it. When she stopped to have a closer look, she could see that the house had been emptied. Mrs Young contacted the estate agent who confirmed that contracts were close to exchange. However, the seller was unknown to Mrs Young or her solicitor.
Mrs Young called Land Registry’s property fraud line and action was taken straight away to prevent any ownership changes being made on the register before the Simpsons’ estate had been sorted out. Enquiries into what happened are still under way.
The property fraud line is one of a range of measures that Land Registry employs to help prevent or detect property fraud and safeguard the most valuable asset that people own. Since September 2009 we have stopped over 160 fraudulent applications on properties worth more than £70 million.
Property fraud can happen in many ways. Fraudsters may use forged documents to transfer someone else’s property into their own name or to raise a mortgage on someone else’s property. Once they have raised money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge they disappear without making repayments, leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.
Most at risk
The properties most vulnerable to property fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free. Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners who do not live in the property because they live abroad, buy-to-let landlords, people in long-term hospital or residential care or where a relationship has broken down.
Top tips to help you protect your property from fraudsters
Register your property
Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated.
Update your details
Once registered, ensure we have up-to-date contact details so we can reach you easily. You can have up to three addresses in the register.
Sign up for Property Alerts
Our free Property Alert service helps owners to guard against property fraud. The service allows you to monitor up to 10 registered properties in England and Wales. We will send you an email alert each time official searches and applications are received against a monitored property e.g. if someone tries to take out a mortgage on your property. Should you get an alert, you can judge whether the activity is suspicious and seek further advice.
Enter a restriction
Owners who feel their property might be at risk can have a restriction entered on their property which is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner. There is no Land Registry fee for home owners to register this restriction as long as they do not live in the property they wish to protect.
More property fraud advice is available from www.gov.uk/propertyfraud.
Watch our video: Protect your property from fraud.