Is your property registered – in case someone steals it?
The property sector is open to a large level of fraud due to the high value of money involved in property sales, purchases and re-mortgages, property fraud has long been a tempting target for fraudsters, this is why the government has alert services set up to help notify you against potential fraud, I will talk more about that below.
How can you steal a property?
Imagine having to work away from your home, only to return home and find someone else in your house. This was one man’s reality in Luton, when he was alerted by a neighbour that someone was in his home. Upon driving back to the property, he found the locks had been changed and when someone answered the door, they advised they were doing works in the property for a new owner! All his belongings were gone and he soon found out that the property had been sold and was now registered to a new owner. This case is ongoing, but we are confident a large settlement of some sort will soon follow!
Checks required during Conveyancing
The Land Registry paid out a total of £3.5million in compensation for fraud last year alone, one of the many reasons conveyancing solicitors are required to carry out stringent identification checks and searches as part of the conveyancing process.
If you are purchasing a property, for example, your conveyancing solicitor will ask you to provide several forms of both photographic and non-photographic identification, you will be asked to provide proof of purchase funds and proof of how this money was obtained.
If you are selling a property, your identification will be checked in much the same way and your conveyancing solicitor will write to you at your home address to ensure you live there.
These checks form part of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) code of conduct – a requirement on your solicitor to ‘identify who they are acting for’ and to ensure solicitors comply with the Money Laundering Regulations 2017.
What can I do to protect myself from property fraud?
Whilst Solicitors are required to carry out checks, there is nothing better than knowing you yourself have also put protection in place for your home. The Property Alert Service is an online service that provides additional protection against potential fraud. You can find details of how to sign up to this free government service below:
The Property Alert Service: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/property-alert
It is quick and easy to register and should give you further peace of mind that if certain activity is detected against your home, you will be notified. The service allows you to monitor properties already registered with HM Land registry – up to 10 properties can be monitored.
Monitoring a vulnerable person’s home
As you can monitor up to 10 properties, you could monitor properties belonging to a vulnerable relative or friend too. You will receive email alerts when there is certain activity on the properties and this will allow you to take immediate action – before it is too late!
This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter.
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We are solicitors in Camberley, Wokingham and London. In 2019, Herrington Carmichael won ‘Property Law Firm of the Year’ at the Thames Valley Business Magazines Property Awards, ‘Best Medium Sized Business’ at the Surrey Heath Business Awards and we were named IR Global’s ‘Member of the Year’. We are ranked as a Leading Firm 2023 by Legal 500 and Alistair McArthur is ranked in Chambers 2022.