Homeowners and homebuyers are being warned to be on the lookout for so-called ‘property fraud’, which appears to be on the rise across the UK.
HM Land Registry has been issuing important reminders to solicitors and conveyancers of late, in the form of emails and leaflets, which are geared at raising awareness of the growing problem among their clients.
One of the leaflet reads: “Fraudsters can and do target properties for fraud.
“By pretending to be you they can try to sell or mortgage your property, leaving you to deal with the consequences.
“Fraud of all kinds is on the increase, so it’s important you do what you can to protect yourself.”
It warns that homeowners are likely to be more at risk if their property is rented out, empty, mortgage-free or not registered with HM Land Registry.
Homeowners are subsequently advised to sign up to the Land Registry’s free Property Alert service – which will notify them of any applications put forward or issues raised concerning their property, including applications for new mortgages or changes of ownership.
It adds that, if properties are targeted by fraud and owners encounter subsequent financial losses, they can only be compensated if the property is correctly registered with HM Land Registry.
So far, the Land Registry claims that it has been successful in preventing hundreds of fraudulent applications from being registered, representing properties valued in excess of £117m.
Any ‘suspicious activity’ should be reported as soon as possible by contacting HM Land Registry’s property fraud line on 0300 006 7030.
Zahra Himani, of OGR Stock Denton’s Property Team, said: “You can never be too careful. As a firm, we have modified internal procedures to try to mitigate against the risk of property fraud.
“We meet all of our clients, we warn clients about bank details changing and call to verify account details before remitting money.
“We work with our clients to protect their money. However, it must be a team effort. Therefore, if you are buying a property, visit the property a few times, if you notice any unusual occupiers then let your solicitors know.”
“It is about being constantly vigilant, and not just on a Friday, which is usually a busy time for conveyancers,” she said.