Property fraud line launched

First published in Business Daily

A PROPERTY fraud line launched this week means that owners 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 next.

The telephone number is 0300 006 7030 and the line is open from 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

The properties most vulnerable to registration or mortgage fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free.

Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners 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: “Fraud affects all parts of today’s society and everyone in it, costing this country an estimated £38 billion each year.

“Government has a zero tolerance to fraud against the public purse but in order to fight fraud, everyone needs to work together. The need for everyone to play their part is just as relevant in the fight against property fraud as in other contexts.

“Our award-winning 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.”

Additionally, 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 that 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 the 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 from fraudsters are:

  • Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you might be compensated.
  • Once registered, have up-to-date contact details so you can be reached 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 you have of being reached if needs be.

Find out more at landregistry.gov.uk/public/property-fraud.

Mr Lewis added: “The 0300 006 7030 number and the free restriction are two tools the public can easily use in the fight against fraud. Together with our top tips, they offer a serious obstacle to even the most determined fraudster.”

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