How to Avoid Identity Homeowner Fraud
You may have seen the shocking story in the press recently of how a homeowner’s identity was stolen. This resulted in his property being sold without his knowledge. In this blog the Bookers & Bolton Solicitors Property Team have essential and easy advice that can help you avoid this happening.
The homeowner was working away from home and was contacted by his neighbours to say they had seen someone in his house. He rushed back to find the locks had been changed and a builder carrying out renovations for the ‘new owner’. Not only that but his home had been completely stripped of all his possessions.
The police contacted the new owner’s father who confirmed he had bought the property. They accessed the Land Registry online service to find that the new owner was listed, and that the home had in fact been sold without the original owner knowing. He was no longer the registered owner.
The person impersonating the homeowner had provided a driving licence and set up a bank account for the proceeds of sale to be paid into in the homeowner’s name. Once the house was sold it was registered in the new owner’s name and they began renovating it, totally unaware they had bought a house from someone who had no right to sell it to them. Both the original homeowner and the new buyers had been left in an awful situation by the fraudster.
What Makes a Property Vulnerable?
The thing that makes a property most vulnerable is if it is empty or you don’t live there.
- Do you regularly work away leaving your home empty?
- Are you renting out your own property whilst living abroad?
- Do you have a relative currently in a care home, leaving their property empty?
How Can I Avoid This Happening To Me?
- Make sure your property is registered at the Land Registry
- If your property is registered, you can sign up to the Land Registry property alert. You can do this here: https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/ You can register up to 10 properties (provided they are in England and Wales), and you will receive an alert from the Land Registry should any official searches or applications be made. The alert will advise you who you need to contact.
- Make sure the Land Registry can contact you wherever you live. This means making sure they have your up-to-date contact address (if you don’t live at the property) and advising them if this changes. They can hold up to 3 contact addresses including an email address and an address abroad.
- You can also apply to the Land Registry for a restriction on the title to your property. This can stop the Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you. This adds in another level of ID security.
We always carry out strict and thorough ID checks on all our clients before we commence any conveyancing transactions but not all law firms are the same. Look for those who are members of the Law Society Quality Conveyancing Scheme and always ask your lawyers to check the quality of the firm acting on the other side.
If you would like us to help you register your property or advise on any conveyancing matter then please call our property team today on 01420 558295.