Land Registry launches anti-fraud service
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Legal
FraudImage: Fraud via Shutterstock
Land Registry has launched a new service to support people who think their property is at risk from fraud.
Homeowners that sign up to the Property Alert service online will be sent emails when official searches and applications are received against a monitored property.
Though the new service is free, only properties registered with Land Registry can be monitored. Registration costs vary depending on a property's value. Homes worth £80,000-£100,000 cost £70 to register, while properties with a value of £200,000-£500,000 cost £270.
Property fraud has many forms. Fraudsters often acquire ownership of a property by using forged documents, or by impersonating the registered owner. The crooks can then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner's knowledge before disappearing without making repayments, leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.
Land Registry’s counter-fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud. Between September 2009 and January 2014, it stopped fraud on properties worth more than £62 million.
Alasdair Lewis, director of legal services, said: "Following a successful trial of Property Alert, we hope that many homeowners will want to sign up for this new free service to help them protect what is probably their most valuable asset.”
Owners can sign up and register up to three properties to be monitored. Email alerts will be sent when Land Registry receives an application to change the register as well as for official searches. Homeowners can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious and if they should seek further advice.
Land Registry warns that the following properties are most likely to be at risk from fraud:
• Empty properties such as where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home.
• Where there are family problems. For example, when a relative dies, a family member could try to sell a property without giving someone their proper share or in a relationship break-down someone could try and mortgage a property without their partner knowing.
• Tenanted properties – for example where the owner lives elsewhere, a tenant might try to mortgage or sell the property without the owner's knowledge.
• Properties without a mortgage. According to Land Registry's records, nearly half of all registered residential properties are mortgage-free.