Over 12,000 people have signed up to the Land Registry’s Property Alert service, six months after it was introduced. The free system will deliver early warnings of any suspicious activity on a property.
Director of Legal Services at the Land Registry, Alasdair Lewis, says: “We introduced Property Alert to help people to protect their most valuable asset, their home. We’re glad that Property Alert has proved so popular.
“However, there are still many homeowners who are unaware of the risk of property fraud and how to protect themselves, so we are asking people to share our advice and video with their friends and family to spread the word.”1
Property Alert Service Fight Against Property Fraud
The Land Registry have provided an example of how Property Alert could have warned property owners sooner:
“Mr. Q rented out his property using letting agents while he lived overseas. His letting agents were approached by someone claiming to have bought the property. This was a surprise to them, so they contacted Mr. Q.
“Mr. Q then contacted Land Registry’s property fraud line. Upon investigation, it was found that an application to transfer Mr. Q’s property into the name of a buyer had been received. A staff member also spotted discrepancies between Mr. Q’s signature and previously scanned documents. We [Land Registry] sent a letter to the buyer’s solicitor requesting confirmation of the steps taking to verify Mr. Q’s identity.
“Mr. Q’s solicitor also contacted Land Registry to confirm that he had known the family for over 20 years and that Mr. Q had not sold his property. He referred the matter to the police on Mr. Q’s behalf.
“As we had not received sufficient evidence from the buyer’s solicitor in respect of the signature verification for Mr. Q, we cancelled the transfer application and the sale wasn’t registered.
“If Mr. Q had signed up for Property Alert, he would have received an email alert when Land Registry had first received notification that a transfer of ownership would be arriving. He could then have looked into the matter sooner.”1
Property fraud can affect people in many ways. For instance, one way is to steal someone’s identity and try to obtain ownership of a property by using fake documents. The fraudsters will then mortgage the property without the owner’s knowledge, before leaving with the money.
Land Registry has blocked fraudsters in the property industry on homes a total of £66m in worth, within the past five years.1
Recently, two scammers stole £50,000 by selling an empty house they did not own. The Land Registry noticed the fraud before it was registered, however, the criminals got away with the money and are still currently wanted by police.
Homeowners and landlords can set up a free online account to use Property Alert at Land Registry’s website https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/.
Members of the service can oversee a maximum of ten properties, and will receive email alerts when Land Registry receives an application to change the register, and also for official searches.
Property owners can then decide if they consider the activity suspicious, and if whether they should seek further guidance. If an alert is sent stating that the bank has lodged a search on a property, but the owner has not applied for a mortgage, they may want to seek legal advice, contact Action Fraud, or speak to the bank in question.
Investigations into mortgage applications can then start much sooner in the process.
The Land Registry has identified tenanted properties, empty homes, properties where there are family disputes, and houses without mortgages as the most at risk of property fraud.