Top tips to protect your home from property fraud
A recent slowdown in house prices is being cheered by first-time buyers, who were previously seeing property values rise at a much faster rate than interest on their savings.
House prices in London rose by just 1.5% in the year to the end of March- compared to nearly 15% the year before and 28.3% at their peak in April 2000. This change in house price growth in London has highlighted a change of gear across the UK property market, making it a good time for first time buyers.
However, regardless of whether you’re a first-time buyer, or already on the property ladder, you need to be aware of property fraud.
Since 2009 the Land Registry has stopped frauds on over 200 applications, representing properties valued more than £92m.
Whilst rare, the results can be devastating and taking a few simple steps will help stop fraudsters from targeting your home.
What is property fraud?
Property fraud involves fraudsters stealing your identity (which is easier than many people realise), and then impersonating you to sell or re-mortgage your property.
Property is often the most valuable thing you own, and the result of it being sold or transferred without your knowledge is understandably distressing. While action can be taken to rectify the situation afterwards, it’s a time-consuming and costly process.
Am I at risk from property fraud?
You’re more at risk from property fraud if:
- your identity has been stolen
- you rent out your property
- you live overseas
Or if your property:
- is empty
- is mortgage-free
- is not registered with HM Land Registry*
*Your property will be registered if you bought or mortgaged your property since 1998 – you can check the register if you are unsure.
What can I do to protect myself from property fraud?
Four top tips to reduce fraudsters targeting your home:
- Register your property: Your property will be registered if you bought or mortgaged your property since 1998. It’s important to ensure your property is registered, if you do become a victim of fraud which results in financial loss then you may be compensated. If your property is not registered, then no compensation is payable.
- Keep your details up to date: Once registered, make sure your contact details are up-to-dateso you can be easily reached should there be a query or issue. You can have up to three addresses on the register, including an email address or an address abroad.
- Sign up for the free Property Alert service: HM Land Registry’s award-winning service helps owners to guard against property fraud. If there is certain activity on the monitored property (e.g. if someone applies for a mortgage on it) you will receive an alert. While this will not automatically block any changes to the register, it does mean you are aware of it and able to act.
- Property at risk? Request a restriction: If you feel your property might be at risk of property fraud you can have a restriction entered on it. This 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 you. This is free if you do not live at the property, or a fee of £40, if you do.
I think I’m a victim of property fraud, what should I do?
If you think you may be the victim of property fraud, you should:
- Contact HM Land Registry property fraud line on 0300 006 7030 (Monday – Friday, 8.30am to 5pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact a legal professional such as a solicitor
- Report it to Action Fraud (police.uk)
How We Can Help
Founded in 1980, Osborne, Morris & Morgan provide a friendly, professional service, ensuring your property transaction runs as quickly and smoothly as possible.
We carry extensive checks and searches when dealing with property transactions, and ensure ID’s of all parties involved have been thoroughly checked.
We are also an accredited member of The Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS), which provides a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices.
Are you concerned about any of the issues discussed in this article, do you need any help with obtaining title documentation?
We understand the importance of having an experienced conveyancing solicitor on your side when buying or selling a home, so call us today on 01525 378177 or contact us online.