Do Not Become the Victim of Property Fraud

Sep 3rd 2010

Landlords are a common target for property fraud.

Last Friday, Stewart Rice, the tenant of a multimillion pound property in central London, was jailed for three years after he attempted to sell his landlord's house to property developers. The sale went through but Rice was caught as he tried to transfer £850,000 to an account in Dubai.

According to the Land Registry, fraudsters aim either to acquire title to the land through a forged transfer or to impersonate the owner. That is why they target properties they know are rented out and where the owner's contact details is the property address.

In light of recent events, we are through our advisors providing these simple guidelines to make sure that none of its members become the victims of fraud.

Register your title. If you have not registered your property with the Land Registry, do so. Registering your property will give you greater security of title. Also, if you do register and then become the victim of fraud, you may be eligible for compensation from the Land Registry.
Keep your contact details up to date. When renting out a property you should register a correspondence address which is different to the property address - an "address for service". The best address for service would be your home address but make sure that you update the Land Registry if you move house.
Consider multiple "addresses for service". To further prevent fraud, the Land Registry allows you to have up to three addresses for service. So rather than just putting your own home address down, think about also providing them with your email address and you could always add your solicitor as the third.
Put a restriction on your title. If you think you are particularly at risk of fraud, you might want to consider apply for the entry of a restriction on your title. This means that the Land Registry will then not register anything on the property (for example a sale or a new mortgage) unless a solicitor or other professional has certified they have checked your identity.
Following these guidelines will significantly reduce your risk of becoming the victim of property fraud.

For more information, see the Land Registry Public Guide 17: How to safeguard against property fraud at the Land Registry Website.