Fraud – Can someone steal your home without you even knowing?

The short answer is yes – and you might not find out until it is too late.

The Law Society reports that property fraud is on the rise. With fraudsters often changing their tactics even the most vigilant homeowners could be at risk. Criminals often use methods such as identify theft and impersonation, setting up fake companies and law firms or stealing money from a financial institution. Furthermore, the Law Society also reports that criminals are most likely to target either:-

  • Sole owners, especially of unmortgaged properties
  • Absent owners e.g. landlords
  • Owners who are in a hospital or care home
  • Owners who have died
  • Owners living overseas
  • Owners who have built up equity in their property

It was reported that during 2021/22 financial year, HM Land Registry (HMLR) paid out a whopping £5.8 million in indemnity payments which included legal costs and protection for victims of fraud and other errors. To their credit however, within the same year HMLR prevented 44 fraudulent applications worth over £31 million.

What you can do to protect yourself

Good news, there are a few steps you can take to prevent fraud depending on your circumstances. You should do or check the following:-

1.Registering your property at HM Land Registry

      Since 1st December 1990, the whole of England and Wales has been subject to compulsory registration. This means that if your property is conveyed or mortgaged, an application to the Land Registry must be sent off to HMLR so it can be added to their database. This negates the need for old and delicate paper deeds which could be lost, stolen or damaged. Any property which hasn’t been conveyed or mortgaged since the 90s, may not be registered. If you choose to submit a voluntary first regulation, the Land Registry will reduce their costs saving you some money.

      2.Form LL Restriction

      If you do not intend to live at your property for example, if you are a landlord or second home owner, you are eligible to have a HMLR restriction placed on your property’s title. This restriction is designed to prevent property fraud by ensuring that, before any mortgage, transfer, or transaction is registered on the property, a conveyancer must declare they have checked the owner is the party wishing to register a change to the title.

      3.Property Alert Service

      HMLR also provide a free monitoring service for anyone who feels a registered property is at risk from fraud. Once signed up, HMLR will send email alerts if someone applies to change the register for your property in cases such as someone attempting to use your property to take out a mortgage.

      While the alerts will not block an application to change the Register, they notify you when the application has been made so you may take action if necessary.

      You can sign up for HMLR’s Property Alert Service, or find further information, at:

      Written by Residential Conveyancer, Emily House.

      Call us now to discuss voluntary first registration of your property or the entry of protective restrictions on 01278 664060.

      We would be pleased to answer any queries you may have at this stage, without obligation.

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