Home owners who are concerned their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage can now alert Land Registry and speak to specially trained staff for practical guidance about what to do next.
The telephone number for the property fraud line is 0300 006 7030 and the line is from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
The properties most vulnerable to registration or mortgage fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free. Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners who do not live in the property because they live abroad, are buy to let landlords, are in long term hospital or residential care or where a relationship has broken down.
Examples of property fraud include situations where a buy to let landlord gets a call from a local estate agent saying that one of his rental properties seems to be being marketed for sale or where a relative learns the property has been ’stolen’ by a fraudster impersonating the deceased proprietor.
Alasdair Lewis, director of legal services at Land Registry, said: “Fraud affects all parts of today’s society and everyone in it, costing this country an estimated £38 billion each year. Government has a zero tolerance to fraud against the public purse but in order to fight fraud, everyone needs to work together. The need for everyone to play their part is just as relevant in the fight against property fraud as in other contexts.
“Our award-winning Counter Fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud. Since September 2009, our measures have prevented fraud valued at £52 million but with an average indemnity payout of some £150,000, fraud is still a fundamental risk to our business.”
Meanwhile, Land Registry’s trial of a free restriction for absent owners is being continued. Around 5,000 properties have been protected in this way since the trial began in February 2012.
Designed to help prevent forgery, the restriction requires a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner. There is no Land Registry fee for home owners who wish to register this restriction as long as they do not live in the property. Owner occupiers pay a small fee.