Being vigilant for property fraud
My aim is to give a very small insight into some of the pressures faced and important work undertaken by Conveyancers, along with guidance on how we can collaborate with clients to help them in respect of property fraud.
What is property fraud and why is it an important consideration?
There are different types of property fraud but typically for a property owner we should be vigilant to impersonation, whereby criminals can make an attempt at trying to sell or raise funds through mortgaging a property by impersonating the rightful owner. It is our role as your conveyancer to ensure we take necessary steps to screen and mitigate this risk for the rightful owner.
Which circumstances make property fraud a bigger concern?
There are certain hallmarks which signify higher risk circumstances and these include:
- Vacant properties.
- Solely owned properties
- Properties without a mortgage
- Owners living overseas
- Owners who are absent from the property for a number of reasons
What are the implications of this in conveyancing?
When acting on a transaction, especially one of higher risk as described above, it is important for us to carry out further identification checks. This will often include requesting id documentation linking a non-resident owner to the sale property in question. Although needing to supply extra information may seem frustrating, we must do this to act in your best interests as the rightful owner and to ensure that we are speaking to the correct person.
What can property owners do to help mitigate the risk?
There are some extra steps that property owners can take to help minimise the risk:
- The Land Registry offers a free Property Alert service, whilst this is not an entirely preventative measure, it means that you will receive email alerts if certain activity takes place against any monitored properties. This can be accessed on their website.
- Entering an anti-fraud restriction on the title, this will prevent the Land Registry registering a sale or mortgage without a certificate signed by a conveyancer or solicitor confirming that the application was made by the identified owner. Please speak to your conveyancer if you would like to discuss having this put into place.
- You can also apply to add a restriction onto the property, there are different routes for this depending on whether you do or do not reside at the property.
Property fraud is on the rise and it is therefore important that conveyancers conduct extra due diligence where necessary to ensure that they are corresponding with the rightful owner. There are however extra steps that can be taken by property owners to help minimise the risk of property fraud, it is especially important that owners in riskier circumstances consider these.
If you require further advice regarding this, or any other legal issue, please contact Chattertons