The rise in property fraud

15/03/2019

The address that the Land Registry relies on when it needs to contact a land owner or beneficiary of a charge over land, is the address for service which is provided when a person or a company purchases land, takes a lease for more than seven years or takes a charge over land.

When the Land Registry receive applications that could affect the legal rights or interests of a property owner or beneficiary of a charge, they will write to the affected party at the address for service which is on the title register for the property/charge. If the address is no longer correct, the owner may lose its right to respond to that correspondence and to object to an application which has been made. For example, where a third party makes an application to register an adverse notice against the land or claim adverse possession of the land. 

It is not the Land Registry’s responsibility to ensure that the details that they hold are current; it is the responsibility of the owner.

Registration fraud is an ever-growing concern.

Fraudsters pretend to be a property owner so that they can try to sell or mortgage their property. The Land Registry has warned that indemnity payments may be withheld or discounted where the owner failed to respond to correspondence because its address for service was out of date. This is clearly of particular concern where a land owner does not physically occupy a property, for example property investors.

Companies must ensure that they notify the Land Registry if their registered offices change as the Land Registry will not check Companies House to see if company details are up to date. In addition, the Land Registry need to be told of a change of address even if a local council or other body has been informed of the change. 

To protect yourself should you forget to up date your address for service details, you could give an email or DX address as the Land Registry only require one postal address but will accept up to three addresses for each person. No fee is payable to add or change an address for service at the Land Registry. However, if there is large portfolio of properties, an administrative charge may be applicable. 

To reduce the risk of being a victim of property fraud, the Land Registry also recommend that property owner’s sign up to www.gov.uk/property-alert. This allows you to monitor up to ten registered properties in England and Wales and you do not have to own the property, so you could monitor the property of an elderly relative for example. This service will notify you of certain applications affecting the property you are monitoring such as for a new mortgage or change of ownership. For more information, please visit www.gov.uk/propertyfraud

Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this article is accurate and correct, the information provided does not constitute any form of advice.