Landlords warned to safeguard properties against registration fraud

Mettrick was jailed for five years at Leeds Crown Court last week for trying to defraud lenders of more than £3million by stealing the identities of landlords.

Mettrick searched for properties which had no outstanding loans or borrowing against them, via letting agents. She then rented properties using fake documents and then attempted to obtain mortgages for the properties by pretending to be the real owner.

She failed to defraud a total of £2.4million but still managed to obtain over £500,000.

Graham Kinnear, Managing Director at Landlord Assist says: “Buy-to-let is one of the most popular forms of investment in the UK but it can also be fraught with danger – the case of Feruza Mettrick is testament to this.

“Properties are the most valuable asset that people own so not surprisingly are an attractive target for criminals. By impersonating the real owner of a property, fraudsters can take out a mortgage against a property they do not own, keep the money for themselves and leave the real owners with a huge debt and having to answer to a mortgage company that thinks they have a charge over the property.

“For their own peace of mind and to safeguard their business, landlords should be vigilant and take every possible measure to prevent identity theft.”

Stephen Parry, Commercial Director at Landlord Assist says: “Landlords should have an appropriate correspondence address noted with the Land Registry to ensure that they get notified should anyone attempt to try and interfere with their title to the property.

“In addition, owners may include in their title a ‘restriction’ requiring the Land Registry not to register any change to the title, including change of ownership or mortgage, without their consent. It is a simple and free service and can save a landlord hours of aggravation and stress.”

The statistics for identity fraud are increasing at an alarming rate and landlords should be alert to the risks.  Over the past five years reports suggest that the Land Registry has been forced to pay out over £26million in compensation to victims of property fraud.

Landlords and buy-to-let property owners are particularly vulnerable to registration and identity theft, especially where they are known not to occupy a property themselves. 

Properties most likely to be targeted are those with no outstanding loans or borrowing against them.

In most instances fraudsters aim to acquire title to a property either by using a forged transfer or by impersonating the registered owner.

In cases of identity theft, fraudsters have been known to use the landlord’s name and the rented property’s address to apply for loans, including credit cards and borrowing from banks, and to buy mail order goods in the landlord’s name.

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