Alex Eddy, associate solicitor at Humphries Kirk, explains why you should be aware of property fraud and what to do if you think you might be a victim.
Property is one of the most valuable assets that a person will own in his or her lifetime so it is essential to be aware of and protected from fraud.
You will be at a higher risk if you own a property which is rented, empty, mortgage-free, or not registered with HM Land Registry. Fraudsters may pretend to be you to try to sell or mortgage the property and steal the proceeds.
It is therefore essential that you advise HM Land Registry of any change of address whenever you move so that, if they do need to write to you or notify you of a potential transaction, they can do so. You can also register an email address with them.
It is possible to register a notice against the register of any property to ensure extra steps are taken by the solicitor acting on the sale and by the HM Land Registry to ensure the person selling is the person entitled so to do.
The government offers a free Property Alert service which will notify you of certain applications affecting up to 10 registered properties, such as applications for a new mortgage or change of ownership. You do not have to be the registered owner to receive alerts; you could, for example, monitor on behalf of an elderly relative or neighbour.
If your property is unregistered, it is advisable to have it registered at HM Land Registry as soon as possible. This will assist not only with the potential fraud risk but will also ensure that selling your property will be easier in the long run. Registering a property to ensure the correct property and rights are noted can be a complicated and technical business but it is something we deal with all the time.
If you would like to know more about protecting your property then please contact a member of our residential property team.