Did you know thieves could steal the ownership of your land and property? I certainly did not know about property fraud when I first started investing.
A few years ago, I received a letter. The letter stated that my house belonged to another person, and the mortgage repayments were in arrears. Alarmed, I contacted my solicitor to re-investigate the title deed and land ownership. My solicitor informed me the letter was fraudulent.
Then, in 2018, I came across an article that shocked me. Valerie Edwards was sentenced to three years prison in the UK for attempting to steal her parents’ home.
Edwards’ father was in a care home, and her stepmother was abroad. In this period that the apartment was vacant, Edwards convinced a local real estate agent to sell the property. She submitted a fake ‘power of attorney’ letter outlining her parents’ ‘consent’.
Property fraud is more common that you think. In 2018, the H.M Land Registry barred more than £130 million of attempted property fraud in the UK, according to the Freedom of Information request (Reference: IBB Solicitors).
What is property fraud?
Property fraud occurs when criminals use fake documents to transfer the ownership of your land and property to their own names. Or, these criminals sell your property and keep the profits – unbeknownst to you.
Properties that are most at risk of fraud, include:
– Rental properties
– Vacant properties
– Properties that are not registered with the H.M Land Registry
– Properties that are not mortgaged.
How to stop thieves stealing your land and property
You cannot completely safeguard your property from criminals. But, there are tips you can follow to minimise the risk of property fraud happening to you. This includes:
1. Register your property with the H.M. Land Registry: Property that were mortgaged before 1980, or have not changed ownership, may not be registered with the Land Registry. You can submit an application to have your property registered. Not only will this safeguard your property against fraud, you’ll have legal documentation outlying your title deed and exact plot of land.
2. Register to the H.M Land Registry ‘Property Alert Service’ at www.gov.uk/property-alert : By registering to this government service, an email is sent to you when there is a change of ownership, or a new mortgage application, for your specified property.
3. Apply for a restriction on your title deed: This service costs approximately £40 at the time of writing. This restriction means that a solicitor or conveyancer must certify that you made all sales or new mortgage applications on the title deed.
4. Do not give anyone your account details. Your solicitor will ask you to transfer your fees and deposit. But, they should not ask you to submit your account details via email. If you do receive such an email, call your solicitor to re-confirm the request. Criminals intercept emails, in search for bank and credit card details.
5. Though it’s not always possible, mail through your letterbox should land inside your house. It’s easier for thieves to rummage through your mail, in search for personal information, if your mailbox is located on the street.
6. Shred all documentation with your personal and bank details.
7. Ask a friend, neighbour or family member to check on your house when it is vacant. Here are my tips on safeguarding your vacant property.
So, have you, or anyone you know, been a victim of property fraud?
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