Do you own a residential property that you do not intend to live in yourself? If you do, you may not have realised that you are at an increased risk of being a victim of property fraud. An example of such fraud might be where somebody purports to sell or mortgage your property and then pockets the cash.
The properties most vulnerable to this kind of fraud include those that are empty, those that are tenanted, and those that are mortgage-free.
The Land Registry has recently introduced an initiative enabling owners of homes that they don’t occupy to safeguard themselves from property fraud free of charge by adding a restriction against the title of their property. This would mean that anyone attempting to sell or mortgage that property would have to prove their identity to a solicitor. The solicitor would then have to certify to the Land Registry that they are satisfied that the seller or mortgagor is the true owner of the property.
If you wish to take advantage of this scheme, simply download Form RQ from the Land Registry website, complete it and send it to the Land Registry’s Birkenhead office.
This is only available to home owners who are individuals (rather than companies) and who do not live in the property they wish to protect. Owner occupiers, companies who own residential properties and owners of commercial property or development land can apply for similar protection but they must use a different form and pay an application fee of £50.
There are additional simple steps that you can take to protect your property: the first step is to make sure that your property is registered at the Land Registry. It should be registered if you bought it at any time since 1991, and it may be registered if you bought it before then, depending on its location. If it is unregistered, you can apply for registration subject to payment of a Land Registry fee. Registration may give you the ability to claim compensation in the event that property fraud leads to financial loss, and also gives you greater protection against the acquisition of rights by squatters.
Once your property is registered, ensure that your contact details on the register are kept up-to-date so that the Land Registry can reach you easily if it needs to. You can supply three contact addresses, one of which can be your email address.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.