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Property Title Fraud – Fact or Fiction?

Author: Craig Bees Published: 21st December 2021 10:12
Fraudsters are targeting vulnerable property ownersFraudsters are targeting vulnerable property owners

I appreciate the festive season is almost upon us and this is not an especially ‘festive’ topic but, judging from the number of phone calls and queries our office has received in the last 10 days, this week’s column is about the worrying increase in UK property fraud.

The Law Society recently reported an upsurge in cases and, from our own experience here in Towcester, it’s clear that many homeowners are completely unaware that, whilst still rare, it can happen.

What is title and registration fraud?

When a fraudster changes the registered details of your property to create the appearance that they own your house or land. To do this they will often pretend to be you or someone else normally involved in a property purchase or sale – perhaps a potential buyer or seller, a mortgage lender or a conveyancer. 

The more vulnerable homeowners are those who are not living at the property, living abroad, in a care home or hospital or deceased. If your home is one of the million or so properties not registered with HM Land Registry, then your risk is greater.

A fraudster could forge some paper deeds, use them to register your property in their name, apply for a mortgage or make a sale to an unwitting buyer – and then disappear with the cash.

If you do own an unregistered property, think seriously about registering it with HM Land Registry as this gives you valuable legal protection when it comes to property title fraud.

Registered properties are also not risk free and the pattern is the same: the fraudster impersonates the true owner and tries to transfer the registration of the property into their own name in order to sell it or acquire a mortgage.

After a fraudulent transaction of this kind the true owner’s registration can normally be restored. But the stress and inconvenience is far better avoided by staying vigilant.

Four Simple Steps to Protect your Home

1. Register with HM Land Registry: if not already registered, you should consider applying for voluntary registration. This is an easy and effective way to protect yourself and your home as it creates an official record that can be checked by anyone who needs to confirm your ownership (such as a solicitor or estate agent).

Registration also makes your title more secure and provides extra legal protections. For example, if you do suffer a loss from this kind of fraud you might be entitled to compensation from HM Land Registry.

2. Keep your registered details up to date: make sure HM Land Registry has your correct name and address. They may need to send you official letters or notices which can act as an early sign of fraud. It’s simple to update your details, so make any changes immediately.

3. Keep a close eye on your register entries: This is easier than you might think. Simply sign up to HM Land Registry’s free property alert service. If someone tries to change the register for your property, you will be notified immediately, and you can use the service to monitor up to 10 properties. Changes to the register won’t be blocked automatically but you will be told about them so that you can take swift action.

 4. Restrict your property title: if you or your property are at particular risk of fraudulent transfers, mortgage applications or register tampering, you might also want to consider applying for a ‘restriction’ to be placed on your title. In the event of an attempted sale, a title restriction requires the conveyancer to formally certify that it really is the legitimate owner who is making the sale.

If you are unsure whether you title is registered, we can check for you, free of charge. Call me on (01327) 359164 or speak to your solicitor.

In other news you may have seen the announcement that electric vehicle charging points will be legally required in new build homes from next year, with up to 145,000 charging points installed every year.

New-build supermarkets, workplaces and buildings undergoing major renovations will also come under the new law as part of UK aims to switch to electric cars, with new petrol and diesel cars sales banned from 2030.

The new initiative is set to be another part of the current government’s strategy to reduce emissions as part of a greater focus on green issues.

Badby & Farthingstone Cricket Club

Looking ahead to next season, the club have set their next AGM for Sunday February 27 2022 (7pm) but before that the, club are hosting a youth strategy meeting with Northampton CCC.

The square (which was re-laid in September) is benefitting from the relatively mild winter weather to date and already looking good. Fund-raising is also on the agenda in the coming months, with funds for renovating the clubhouse a main priority - watch this space.

The club would like to take this opportunity to wish all B & FCC players, members, supporters and their families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 Thank you for all your support in 2021.   

Monthly draw: this week marks the closing date for December’s draw and a case of Italian wines (red/whites/mixed) – just in time for Christmas – but don’t forget January’s draw will be starting soon.

How To Enter: every valuation and instruction for sale or rental between December 31 and Wednesday January 26 will be entered, the winners being notified by e-mail.

So, if you’re thinking of selling or letting your property and want to win this great prize call (01327) 359164 and speak to our sales or lettings team.

Wishing all of you and your families a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year. Looking forward to catching up with you in 2022.  

Craig Bees, MD Bartram & Co

Tel: (01327) 359164

 

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