A property fraud line launched today, Tuesday 5 February, means that owners who are concerned their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage can quickly alert Land Registry.
Callers can speak to specially trained staff for practical guidance about what to do next. The telephone number is 0300 006 7030 and the line is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
The properties most vulnerable to registration or mortgage fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free. Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners who do not live in the property because they live abroad, are buy to let landlords, are in long term hospital or residential care or where a relationship has broken down.
Examples of property fraud include situations where a buy to let landlord gets a call from a local estate agent saying that one of his rental properties seems to be being marketed for sale or where a relative learns the property has been ’stolen’ by a fraudster impersonating the deceased proprietor.
Alasdair Lewis, Director of Legal Services said:
"Fraud affects all parts of today's society and everyone in it, costing this country an estimated £38 billion each year. Government has a zero tolerance to fraud against the public purse but in order to fight fraud, everyone needs to work together. The need for everyone to play their part is just as relevant in the fight against property fraud as in other contexts.
"Our award-winning Counter-Fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud. Since September 2009, our measures have prevented fraud valued at £52 million but with an average indemnity payout of some £150,000, fraud is still a fundamental risk to our business."
Additionally, as part of its commitment to a range of counter-fraud measures, Land Registry’s trial of a free restriction for absent owners is being continued. Around 5,000 properties have been protected in this way since the trial began in February 2012.
Designed to help prevent forgery, the restriction requires a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner. There is no Land Registry fee for home owners who wish to register this restriction as long as they do not live in the property. Owner occupiers pay a small fee.
Land Registry's Counter-Fraud Unit picked up the top prize in the Fraud Prevention Category at the inaugural Fighting Fraud Awards, supported by the National Fraud Authority, in December 2012.
Land Registry's top tips to help owners protect their property from fraudsters:
- Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated.
- Once registered, have up-to-date contact details so we can reach you easily.
- You can have up to three addresses on the register, email addresses or an address abroad can be used. The more information you provide, the more chance we have of reaching you if we need to.
Notes to Editors
- Property fraud can happen in many ways. Fraudsters may attempt to acquire ownership of a property either by using a forged document to transfer it into their own name, or by impersonating the registered owner. Once they have raised money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge, they disappear without making repayments leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.
- The property fraud line on 0300 006 7030 is available from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday. An online reporting form is also available at http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/contact-us/report-fraud or customers who prefer to email or wish to contact Land Registry outside business hours.
- The line is not a substitute for reporting allegations of fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 (who will pass your report on to the police) or for taking independent legal advice.
- In 2011, half of the 52 claims paid out by Land Registry for fraud and forgery were by non-family members. Of these, 22 involved properties with an absent owner and amounted to £1.5m out of the total £7.2m paid for fraud and forgery claims.
- Two publications are available free from Land Registry - Public Guide 17 How to safeguard against property fraud and Public Guide 2 Keeping your address for service up to date.
- With the largest transactional database of its kind detailing over 23 million titles, Land Registry underpins the economy by safeguarding ownership of many billions of pounds worth of property.
- As a government department established in 1862, executive agency and trading fund responsible to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Land Registry keeps and maintains the Land Register for England and Wales. The Land Register has been an open document since 1990.
- For further information about Land Registry visit www.landregistry.gov.uk
Marion Shelley 0300 0067543, 07790 690297