New property fraud hotline for homeowners launches
The new move by the Land Registry means that owners who are concerned their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage can quickly alert Land Registry and speak to specially trained staff for practical guidance about what to do.
Properties most vulnerable to registration or mortgage fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free. According to the Land Registry, people at a higher risk of fraud include those who do not live in the property because they live abroad, are buy-to-let landlords, are in long term hospital or residential care or where a relationship has broken down.
Examples of property fraud include situations where a buy to let landlord gets a call from a local estate agent saying that one of his rental properties seems to be being marketed for sale or where a relative learns the property has been ’stolen’ by a fraudster impersonating the deceased proprietor.
Alasdair Lewis, Director of Legal Services said: “Our Counter Fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud. Since September 2009, our measures have prevented fraud valued at £52 million but with an average indemnity payout of some £150,000, fraud is still a fundamental risk to our business.”
In addition, as part of its commitment to a range of counter-fraud measures, Land Registry’s trial of a free restriction for absent owners is being continued. Around 5,000 properties have been protected in this way since the trial began in February 2012. Designed to help prevent forgery, the restriction requires a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner. There is no Land Registry fee for home owners who wish to register this restriction as long as they do not live in the property. Owner occupiers pay a small fee.
Land Registry’s top tips to help owners protect their property:
* make sure your property is registered (about 20% of land in England and Wales remains unregistered) – if you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated
* once registered, have up-to-date contact details so they can reach you easily
* you can have up to three addresses on the register, email addresses or an address abroad can be used – the more information you provide, the more chance they have of reaching you if needed
The telephone number for the new line is 0300 006 7030 and is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday. More details at www.landregistry.gov.uk/public/property-fraudreal estate
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