What Is Property Title Fraud?
Often, property or land is the most valuable asset an individual or company owns. This makes it a significant target for fraudsters.
Property title fraud occurs when an individual poses as the owner of a property and transfers, sells or mortgages the property without the owner’s consent. Sometimes, the fraudster may even produce documentary evidence to a potential buyer or mortgagee to try to show they have consent.
In a recent article by ABC Finance the founder and CEO at HomeOwners Alliance was quoted as stating the value of successful frauds of property sales have more than tripled from £7m in 2013 to £25m in 2017. In a time where technology is moving at a fast pace and fraudsters become more sophisticated, it can be difficult to spot what is fake and what is not.
The issue has become ever more prevalent because of the effects of coronavirus, as many business property and housing lay vacant with fraudsters looking to exploit this.
Who Is Most At risk?
You may be at risk if:
- your identity has been stolen;
- you rent out your property;
- your property is vacant;
- you live overseas;
- your property is not mortgaged; or
- your property is not registered with HM Land Registry (your property will be registered if you have bought or mortgaged it since 1998, although you can check the register if you are unsure).
How To Prevent Property Title Fraud
(1) Land Registry Property Alert System
The Land Registry has provided a system which alerts you when someone tries to deal with your property. This does not prevent a person dealing with your property, it simply tells you. This does however, give you the choice to take remedial action immediately if an application is made against your title.
You can place alerts on up to 10 properties without there paying a fee.
You do not have to own the property to place an alert. This system may therefore be appealing in circumstances where you are worried that an elderly relative may be affected by such fraud.
You can apply for property alerts at https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/
(2) Place a Restriction on Title
Placing a restriction on the title of a property will prevent it being sold or mortgaged without a solicitor certifying that you the owner are making the transaction, therefore providing a far greater level of security to your property. At dgb, we can provide advice on the necessary application required to register a suitable restriction on the title to any property you own. Please contact us to find out how we can assist.