Property owners are at risk from fraud. There are lots of horror stories about fraudsters impersonating property owners; selling or mortgaging those properties and disappearing with the cash.
This type of fraud is less likely where you live in your own home, but if you have a portfolio of properties which are tenanted or empty you are at risk. Property fraud is often linked with identity theft. A fraudster might change his name to yours, or pretend to be you, and then seek to sell or mortgage a property which you own. That risk can increase further if you have no mortgage or your property is unregistered. As a separate point, it is always best to apply to register unregistered land as you are protected in a number of ways, and we can help with that.
There are steps you can take to protect your property assets:
Make sure the address registered on the title at the Land Registry is your postal address and not the address of the property. You can also include your solicitor’s address.
Use the Land Registry’s “Property Alert” service. This enables you to monitor up to 10 properties, and there is no fee. The Land Registry will notify you if there is an application to register something in relation to that property; such as a mortgage. You can then contact the Land Registry or us if you think that application may be fraudulent.
Register a Restriction against the property title. There are issues with this, so we would advise using the Property Alert in preference.
You don’t need to be the owner of the property to set up the alert. I have set up alerts for the homes of my parents and my mother-in-law via https://www.gov.uk/guidance/property-alert. It was very easy to do: you just need the address of the property (not the Land Registry title number). My parents and mother-in-law are elderly and have no mortgages. If they have to go into sheltered accommodation, and their properties are empty for a time, I will get an alert if anyone tries to mortgage or sell.
The Land Registry has also produced a really good video which highlights the risks, which can be accessed here: