Land Registry protection
It is the worst possible nightmare for any home owner, and especially home owners who do not actually live in the property because they are either renting it out, or using it as a holiday home in the UK. Picture the scene where a property owner visits their property to check all is in order and discovers a ‘For Sale’ sign outside in the garden, and when calling the estate agent to inform them of the mistake are told the property has already been sold!
There were 27 cases of fraudulent property sales noted at the Land Registry in 2010/11 and 23 cases in 2011/12. Criminals sometimes make use of the online search facility to locate details of a property (in most cases a property where the legal owner is not actually living there) and will then try to impersonate the property owner to re-mortgage or sell the property and pocket the proceeds.
It is always important that property owners do what they can to help prevent fraud and to protect ownership of their property. If a property is unregistered then owners should consider voluntarily registering their title with the Land Registry. This eliminates the need to frequently examine the past history of the title whether you are dealing with the property, and allows for a centralised up-to-date official record of who owns land.
For properties already registered the most simplest and effective deterrent property owners can take, is to make sure the Land Registry have their correct address on record. If, as a home owner you rent out your property, or have it as a holiday home then the Land Registry should also have the address of your solicitor so they can contact them if there is any potential issue of fraudulent activity.
The Land Registry is continuing to take steps in an effort to reduce fraudulent dealings with property and add to their safeguards to minimise the risk of a fraud being successful. They are currently trialling a new kind of legal restriction. Home owners who do not live in the property they own can submit form RQ to the Land Registry (or instruct their solicitor to do the same) which will place a restriction on the title entries, requiring confirmation of the property owner’s identity from their solicitor before any sale can take place.
The more conventional RX1 restrictions are still available to use, and there are a variety to suit most common situations property owners may face. However the RQ restriction does not attract a Land Registry fee, whereas the RX1 restriction costs £50 per title.
In a modern age where more and more cases of identity fraud appear each day, home owners need to take pro-active steps to protect their property, and if necessary, should contact a solicitor for guidance on how best to do this for their particular circumstances.