The outcome of the appeal on the ‘Dreamvar’ case this week has left many solicitors debating how to tighten up on their policies and procedures and take sufficient steps to ensure they obtain sufficient ID from all of their clients to avoid the risk of defraud. In this case, a person who purported to be the owner of a property – but was in fact a fraudster – sold their property to the development company (Dreamvar) for a price of £1.1million. The fraud was discovered by the Land Registry shortly after completion but before Dreamvar’s application at the Land Registry was finalised – meaning ultimately that the fraudster got away with a tidy profit, while leaving Dreamvar with nothing.
At DF Legal, we already have extensive procedures in place to verify the identity of our clients and as a policy carry out a corresponding credit check against all clients instructing our firm. But, as a property owner, this can be a particularly frightening experience – especially if you are more “at risk” of being a victim of fraud i.e. being a landlord or otherwise not residing at the property.
Here are some simple steps that you can take to ensure you do not become a victim of property fraud:
1. Keep your Land Registry addresses and contact details up to date
The Land Registry keeps details of all property owners and their addresses. It is always a good idea to ensure these are kept up to date with your current address so that, if anyone from the Land Registry needs to contact you about a change to the property Title, you receive their correspondence promptly.
You can have up to three addresses per Title at the Land Registry and these can include e-mail addresses. If you are not sure which of your details are currently on your Title, you can contact the Land Registry to enquire or call a member of our team who would be happy to carry out a check at the Land Registry for you.
2. Sign up to the Land Registry “Property Alert” service
The government have helped set up a “Property Service” which is free to use. The service will send you alerts via e-mail when there are certain changes made to the property Title i.e. if someone tries to take out a new mortgage against the property. You can add up to 10 properties to the alert service and it can prevent the Land Registry from completing any new application against your Title. More information on this and details of how to set up your own account can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/property-alert
3. Place a Land Registry Restriction on your Title
You can request that a Land Registry place a restriction on the property Title which will prevent the property from being sold or mortgaged without a solicitor/conveyancer confirming the application was made by you. The Land Registry charges a fee for entering a restriction of £40.00.
We are able to assist you in placing the restriction on the Title at the Land Registry, so please feel free to contact a member of our team for further advice on this, or any of the points above.
With cyber crime and paperless offices becoming more of a trend, now is the time to make sure you are protected.