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Property fraud: how not to be properly fraught

22 September 2017

 

When you’ve spent years saving to purchase property, it can be extremely stressful to find yourself the victim of fraud. If you believe that this is just a theoretical risk and in practice will not happen to you then think again: it happened to one of our clients.

Our client owns an investment property close to his place of work in north London. While driving home, he noticed a ‘For Sale by Auction’ sign outside the investment property. He immediately phoned the auctioneers to inform them that there must have been a mistake.

According to the auction house’s records, it was a property company that owned the premises, not our client. It emerged that the property company had purchased the property in good faith from a fraudster.

The situation went from fraudulent to fortunate when HM Land Registry’s arbitration committee decided that our client should have his property returned to him and the property company receive compensation. But could the fraud have been prevented?

Reducing risk

Our client did not have a mortgage on his property, which had made it much easier for the property fraudsters as there was no check made with a mortgage provider. You may also be particularly vulnerable if you do not live near the property (especially if overseas) or the property is empty.

It’s also worth being aware that fraud is more likely to be committed at the end of the week, as the weekend may cause a delay in detection. But whatever the day, there are steps you can take to protect your property.

Our top recommendation for reducing your risk is to sign up for the Land Registry’s free Property Alert service for registered properties in England and Wales. You will then receive an email alert if there is any activity on your property, such as a mortgage being taken out or an attempted sale.

The whole process takes about five minutes. You can sign up with up to ten properties. As well as your own property, you might want to create alerts for your parents’ property and if appropriate your children’s as well. With UK property fraud on the rise, it may be the most productive five minutes you spend all year.

For more information, please get in touch with your usual BKL contact or use our enquiry form.