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How do I protect myself against property fraudsters?
Second properties which are let by the owner or empty properties (for example where the elderly owner is now living in a nursing home) are particularly vulnerable to property fraudsters.
If a fraudster becomes aware that there is an absent owner then he or she can check the publicly available Land Registry records to see who owns the property and attempt either to change the ownership into their name or to mortgage it and fraudulently obtain money in that way.
The Land Registry is all too aware of these schemes and makes strenuous efforts to prevent fraud. This can be by verifying the identity of anyone who makes an application to them or by requiring solicitors who act for buyers or people raising funds by way of a mortgage to confirm that they have verified their client’s identity.
One additional protection that is available is to register a specific type of “restriction” on the title to the property held at the Land Registry. This requires anyone (including a solicitor) who attempts to register the purchase or transfer of a property or a new mortgage to certify that they personally have confirmed the identity of the person selling transferring or mortgaging the property and that they are one and the same as the person who is registered at the Land Registry as the owner.
If the Land Registry are in any doubt then further steps can be taken to ensure that it is the legal owner who have really sold or mortgaged the property.
For advice on this and other Residential Property issues, please contact Partner and Head of Residential Property Chris Pease.
Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.