Properties are a valuable asset carrying the potential for mortgage and sale. With this, it is not surprising they are key targets for fraudsters.

What is property fraud?

Property fraud predominantly involves a fraudster attempting to gain ownership of a property. Measures taken to achieve this include impersonating the owner or using forged documentation.

Through such approaches, fraudsters can access a large sum of money either by selling or mortgaging the property.

An example

In 2017 Laylah De Cruz and Dianne Moorcroft were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud. Diane Moorcroft impersonated the registered proprietor who was not living at the property and successfully applied for a £1.2 million bridging loan on a house in Kensington, London.

The Land Registry later noted suspicious activity and the loan was identified as fraudulent, however, by this point the money had already been advanced.

There are a number of factors making such a property attractive to fraudsters;

  • The property was rented out
  • The owner did not live in the property
  • It was of high monetary value

A property can also become more vulnerable to fraud if it isn’t mortgaged or if it isn’t registered with HM Land Registry.

How to reduce the risk of property fraud

It is essential to have your property registered with HM Land Registry. According to Today’s Conveyancer HM Land Registry have prevented more than 200 fraudulent applications from being accepted since 2009. This has amounted to savings of more than £133.4 million.

Your property will already be registered if you have mortgaged or bought it since 1998. It is possible to check the register online at GOV.UK if you are unsure.

Once registered with HM Land Registry you can opt for a free property alert service. This allows you to choose up to 10 properties to monitor for which you will receive email alerts when there is activity on your chosen property.

Ensuring your contact details are up to date is also important as it enables you to be contacted quickly should an issue arise.

A further helpful measure to avoid the type of property fraud evidenced above is to have in place restrictions. A restriction would prevent HM Land Registry from registering a mortgage or a sale on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies it is from you. Such a restriction is free of charge if you do not live in the property and costs £40 if you do.

Property fraud, although rare, can offer a lucrative pay out for fraudsters and substantial loses for their targets. However, as this blog has outlined, there are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce the vulnerability of your property.

Farleys offers expert advice, if you would like our assistance, call us on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.