Six months on from the launch of Land Registry’s award-winning Property Alert service, more than 12,000 people have signed up to the free service which provides an early warning of suspicious activity on someone’s property.
The Land Registry said although the Property Alert service has been successful there are still many homeowners who are unaware of the risk of property fraud and how to protect themselves.
What is property fraud?
Property fraud can happen in many ways. For example, fraudsters may steal someone’s identity and attempt to acquire ownership of a property by using forged documents. The fraudsters may then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner's knowledge before disappearing with the money, leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.
Land Registry has stopped fraud on properties worth more than £66 million in the last five years. In a recent case, two fraudsters managed to pocket £50k by selling an empty home they didn’t own. Staff at Land Registry spotted the fraud before it was registered but the fraudsters got away with the money and are still wanted by police.
How Property Alert works
- You will need to set up an online account with Land Registry which is free.
- You'll be able to monitor up to ten properties. Email alerts will be sent when Land Registry receives an application to change the register as well as for official searches (which can be sent to us up to 30 working days before the application is sent and ‘freeze’ the register until the application is received). You can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious and if you should seek further advice. For example, if you receive an alert that a bank has lodged a search on your property but you haven't applied for a mortgage, you may want to seek legal advice, contact Action Fraud, or contact the bank in question to tell them you are the owner and have not applied for a mortgage. Investigations into the authenticity of the mortgage application can then begin much earlier in the process.
Properties most likely to be at risk from property fraud:
- Tenanted properties – for example where the landlord lives elsewhere, a tenant might try to mortgage or sell the property without the landlord’s knowledge.
- Empty properties - such as where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home.
- Where there are family disputes. For example, in a relationship break-down someone could try and mortgage a property without their partner knowing.
- Properties without a mortgage.
Other measures to help protect yourself against property fraud:
- Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated.
- Once registered, ensure Land Registry has up-to-date contact details so they can reach you easily. You can have up to three addresses in the register including an email address and/or an address abroad. The more information you provide, the more chance they have of reaching you if they need to.
- Owners can make a request to have a restriction entered on their property. This is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.
Read more on the Land Registry website.
Please note: Action Fraud is not responsible for the content on external websites.
If you are a victim of fraud you can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.