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UK Land Registry launches campaign against property fraud

The properties most vulnerable to fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage free and individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners who are absent such as living abroad, buy to let landlords and the elderly not living in their properties because they may be in long term hospital or residential care.

It advises owners to make sure their property is registered. ‘If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you will be compensated,’ it points out in a new report.

Once registered owners should make sure their contact details are up to date. Owners who feel their property might be at risk can have a restriction entered on their property which is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.

Since the 01 February 2012, there is no Land Registry fee for home owners to register this restriction, as long as they do not live in the property they wish to protect. Owner occupiers will continue to pay a small fee.

‘We believe it is important it is to let home owners know what simple steps they can take to protect their property, one of which is now the ability for those at greatest risk to have a free restriction entered which might prevent their property from being targeted by fraudsters and stolen unawares,’ said Malcolm Dawson, Chief Land Registrar.

‘We have introduced a range of additional safeguards in the last four years and we also work closely with other organisations to do all we can to tackle fraud and identify and take corrective action when it has happened. But home owners must also be vigilant and play their own part in protecting their properties against fraud,’ he added.

People who own empty properties might include those living abroad and the elderly in long term hospital or residential care. In 2010, 30 of the 71 claims paid out by Land Registry for fraud and forgery were by non family members. Of these, 23 involved properties with an absent owner and amounted to £2 million out of the total £7.3 million paid for fraud and forgery claims.