Following a pilot, a counter-fraud security measure has been introduced by Land Registry for companies who own registered property and are concerned it might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage.
Tenanted, unoccupied or mortgage-free properties are known to be particularly vulnerable.
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.
Alasdair Lewis, Director of Legal Services said:
“Recorded incidents of forged transfers and charges are not restricted to individuals; corporate owners such as landlords of residential and commercial properties are targeted too. Since September 2009, we have prevented frauds on over 160 applications representing properties valued in excess of £70m.
“With fraud currently estimated to cost the economy £70bn annually, it makes sense to try and deter fraudsters wherever possible. Together with our top tips, our new restriction can easily be used by companies to help protect their property from being stolen.”
A request by a company for a restriction can be made using Form RQ(Co). The restriction is designed to help safeguard against forgery by requiring conveyancers, for example a solicitor, to certify that they are satisfied the company transferring, leasing or mortgaging the property is the same company as the owner before any new sale, lease or mortgage is registered. They must also certify that they have taken reasonable steps to establish that anyone who executed the deed on behalf of the company held the stated office at the time of execution.
There is no Land Registry fee for companies registering this restriction for up to three titles. It follows the successful launch, three years ago, of a similar free restriction for private individuals who do not live in the property they wish to protect.
Land Registry’s top tips to protect property from fraudsters are:
- make sure the property is registered. Innocent victims of fraud who suffer a financial loss as a consequence, may be compensated
- once registered, have up-to-date contact details on the title register so we can reach you easily – up to three addresses can be used including email addresses or an address abroad
- sign up for our multi award-winning free Property Alert service which helps owners guard against property fraud on up to ten registered properties in England and Wales
- private owners and companies who feel their property might be at risk can have a restriction entered on their title register which is designed to help prevent forgery
- contact the Land Registry property fraud line on 0300 006 7030 if you think you’re the victim of property fraud or email email@example.com
An application to register a fraudulent transfer of a tenanted property in Princes Risborough, Bucks was identified by Land Registry who worked closely with Thames Valley police in their investigation of the crime. This led to the arrest and conviction of two individuals for this and another fraud they were in the process of carrying out at a property in the Worcester area. In 2011 both were sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.