Property fraud, unfortunately, is on the increase, and case law suggests that property owners who are not in occupation are at a greater risk of identity fraud.
We have heard of a recent case where a person owned a rental property with tenants who had been there for some time. The tenant changed his name by deed poll to that of the property owner and then arranged new identification documents in the new name.
He then approached an Estate Agent to sell the property and was present for all the viewings as he lived there. He then appointed a Solicitor to deal with the sale and the Solicitor identified him via his new identification documents. The sale went through at over £400,000.
The landlord has been told that because the Estate Agent and Solicitor completed all their identification checks, it is unlikely that he will get his money back. The matter is currently with the police.
To reduce the risk of fraud, the Land Registry provides a service called “Property Alert”. This is a free service open to property owners based in England and Wales who feel their property could be at risk from fraud.
Once a property owner has signed up to this service, they will receive an email which will alert them of any activities that occur in respect of that property. Up to 10 properties can be monitored; this would allow home owners to take appropriate action in good time to prevent any fraudulent activities in order to protect their interests. All alerts are sent via email when either searches are conducted against the monitored property, or any applications are received that deal with the property.
Although Property Alert will not automatically stop fraud from happening, it could provide an useful early warning of any suspicious activity.
The following link will take you through to the Land Registry website where you can sign up for this free service.