Having the funds to buy a property outright, with no mortgage, is a significant achievement. As well as streamlining the buying process, you can be confident that your home is 100% yours — and you won’t be burdened by monthly payments.
However, many people may be surprised to hear that properties with no registered charge on are also at risk. With HM Land Registry identifying mortgage-free residencies as high value, and therefore, more susceptible to fraud, it’s important that homeowners understand how to mitigate these risks. Here, Huddersfield and Holmfirth estate agent, Applegate Properties, offers some thought-provoking insight…
What is property title fraud?
This is where a criminal gains illegal transfer of a property title — committing identity theft or falsifying documents, to change the legal details associated with ownership. Although there are different methods that have been used to do this previously, many examples involve using a Land Registry application to register a forged transfer or mortgage, claiming registration fraud. Typically, they will then take out loans against the property or, worse still, sell it altogether.
Why is my outright-owned home at risk?
While property title fraud is not a new challenge facing homeowners, it’s certainly on the rise — with HM Land Registry paying out millions of pounds of compensation, as a result of scams, each year.
Any homeowner can be at risk. However, the government department revealed that commercial and residential properties may be more vulnerable if:
- The owner’s identity’s been stolen
- The owner lives overseas
- The property is rented
- The property is vacant
- The property is not mortgaged
- The property is not registered with HM Land Registry
What can be done to protect my property title against criminals?
First and foremost, it’s important that your property details are held on the HM Land Registry — which can be checked, here. This comes at a cost of £3, which is well worth the added peace of mind. If the information in the register is incorrect, it’s crucial that you pass the correct details on.
To bolster lines of defense against fraud, make sure you also sign up to the HM Land Registry Property Alert service. If any official searches of applications are received against your property — or properties — you’ll be notified via email immediately. Able to monitor up to ten properties free of charge, at one time, it’s an invaluable service for landlords too. While this won’t automatically prevent any changes from being made to the register, it will enable you to keep abreast of key updates, so you can take prompt action if necessary.
You can also safeguard your property by putting a restriction on your deeds. If you’re a business owner or private landlord, this application is free. For occupants, it costs £40. If approved, this prevents HM Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage unless certified by a conveyancer or solicitor.
If you feel you may have fallen victim to property fraud, it’s imperative that you report it to HM Land Registry and Action Fraud. It’s also wise to seek specialist legal advice, for more detailed guidance.