Homeowners warned to beware property fraudsters

For the first time, the Law Society and Land Registry have prepared a joint practice note in order to help solicitors make their clients more aware of how they may protect their property interests against fraud and safeguard their rights as legitimate property owners on the register. Two public guides are also available from Land Registry to help property owners protect themselves.

The note highlights certain categories of property owners that may be particularly susceptible to registration frauds. These vulnerable registered owners may include elderly owners who are in hospital or have moved into long term care leaving their homes unoccupied.

Home owners who live abroad or absent landlords are also particularly vulnerable to registration fraud. These types of owners often own properties without a mortgage making them easier targets for fraudsters. Attempts could be made to sell or mortgage their property by use of identity or other fraud.

Those who have already been the victim of identity fraud may be  at greater risk, as well as executors or administrators responsible for a property where the owner has died and the property is not yet sold. As well as vulnerable individuals, properties can also be vulnerable. For example, company property may also face an increased risk of being targeted when unoccupied or undergoing redevelopment.

Law Society President Linda Lee said,

"Land and buildings are usually the most valuable assets people own. They can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and can therefore be attractive targets for fraudsters. Solicitors are qualified in all areas of property law and are there to help you avoid potential problems and to protect your interests at every step. Solicitors are best placed to conduct conveyancing transactions and will be reminding property owners of their role in helping to prevent fraud and to protect their ownership in the same way that they protect their other most precious possessions."

Marco Pierleoni, Chief Land Registrar and Chief Executive of Land Registry added,

"This is the first time Land Registry has collaborated with the Law Society in this way and demonstrates that we are committed to combating fraud by working with a wide variety of organisations.

"Our increased investment in counter-fraud measures has already resulted in preventing fraud attempts against properties valued at an estimated £20m. We hope this initiative will continue this trend by highlighting the importance to solicitors of being vigilant against the many ways in which fraudsters target the properties of vulnerable home owners."

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