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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Property fraud hotline launched

A FRAUD hotline has been opened by the Land Registry for property owners who fear their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage. It will allow owners who believe they may be victims to alert specially trained Land Registry staff.

Susan Pyne
Susan Pyne

The hotline is the latest in a series of initiatives by the Land Registry to combat mortgage fraud and follows a drive to encourage absent owners to register a restriction free of charge. The restriction requires a solicitor’s certification that any person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.

Property title fraud has been on the increase for the last few years. The removal of the need to have an “original” Land Certificate or a “pack” of title deeds once a property is registered, has meant that anyone can obtain a copy of a registered title direct from the Land Registry and, potentially, pose as the owner of that property, in a sale or mortgage.

Empty, tenanted or mortgage-free properties are the most vulnerable to fraud. In 2011, of the 52 claims paid out by the Land Registry for fraud and forgery, 22, adding up to £1.5m, involved properties with an absent owner.

The Law Society’s property and land committee welcomed the initiative. The Law Society has completed a lot of work around preventing fraud but it is important to detect the problem as quickly as possible as there is then a greater likelihood of prevention.

The fraud hotline is solely in connection with registered land – it does not apply for property which remains unregistered. It is recommended that you seek the advice of your legal representative to apply for voluntary registration of your property as soon as possible. Registered land also avoids the problems caused by lost or stolen deeds and the ensuing difficulty in proving ownership. The property fraud hotline at the Land Registry is available from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday on 0300 006 7030. There is also an on-line reporting form available at www.landregistry.gov.uk, the Land Registry website.

If in doubt, please consult your legal representative as to the options for you. Turn to Poole Townsend if you have any queries regarding property ownership.

Call the Conveyancing legal team on 01229 811811. Your first appointment is always FREE and without obligation.

Visit www.pooletownsend.co.uk/propertyfraud

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