Property Fraud

The Land Registry provides a record of property ownership in England and Wales. The name of the legal owner of a property can be found on the Proprietorship Register of the Land Registry’s Official Copies. 

Property fraud is when criminals target a property, effectively taking the legal title to it, pretending to be you, and then selling or mortgaging it.

There are three main types of property fraud:

  • Property investment fraud is when you are lured into investing in a property development scam;
  • Title fraud is where a criminal steals a property owner’s identity and changes the property title from the owner’s name to theirs. They may use a Land Registry application to do this by registering a forged transfer or mortgage (also known as registration fraud);
  • Mortgage fraud happens when criminals exploit a financial institution or private lender through the mortgage process, often misrepresenting information to obtain a larger mortgage loan.

You’re more at risk of property fraud if:

  • your identity’s been stolen;
  • you rent out your property;
  • you live overseas;
  • the property is empty;
  • the property is not mortgaged;
  • the property is not registered at HM Land Registry.

What can I do to prevent property fraud?

You can take certain steps to protect your property from being fraudulently sold or mortgaged.

You can sign up to get property alerts if someone applies to change the register of your property. For example, HM Land Registry will send you an email alert if someone tries to use your property for a mortgage. This will not automatically block any changes to the register but will alert you so that you can take appropriate action.

You can also include a restriction on your title to stop HM Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies the application was made by you.

The majority of properties in England and Wales are registered. However, your property might not be registered if you owned it before 1990 and have not mortgaged it since. It is important to ensure your property is registered to reduce the risk of property fraud and to ensure you can be compensated if you become a victim.

If you are at risk of property fraud, we can advise you on ways to prevent the possibility of fraud and apply to HM Land Registry on your behalf to include a restriction on your title.

What should I do if I become a victim of property fraud?

If you think you are a victim of property fraud, you can report it to the HM Land Registry property fraud team.

You may be able to bring a civil fraud claim to recover losses incurred as a result of the fraud. It is important to first establish whether there is a strong case against the fraudster. There may be cost consequences against anyone alleging fraud without sufficient evidence.

If successful, you may have recourse to a variety of remedies, including:

  • An account for profits where there has been a breach of fiduciary duty or confidence;
  • Rescission of contract;

Additionally, you may be able to obtain a freezing injunction to prevent the fraudster from dissipating their assets or moving them out of the reach of enforcement measures. This acts as a safeguard against situations where the court awards you damages, but the fraudster has no assets with which to pay.

We can write to the HM Land Registry property fraud team on your behalf, and advise you on the possibility of a civil fraud claim.

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