Written by Sally Walmsley

The Land Registry said residential landlords are a high risk group when it comes to property fraud and are encouraging them to sign up to protect against criminal tenants by joining the Property Alert scheme.

A free service alerting homeowners to fraudsters targeting their properties has attracted subscribers.

The Land Registry said residential landlords are a high risk group when it comes to property fraud and are encouraging them to sign up to protect against criminal tenants by joining the  Property Alert service.

In the past forged documents have been used by criminals to try to take ownership of properties and the Registry said that landlords are particularly at risk, with reports of fraudsters attempting to mortgage or sell properties without the owners’  knowledge.

Owners of empty properties, homes without a mortgage and people in the middle of family break-ups or disputes are also among those most at risk.

Once you are signed up to Property Alert you can monitor up to 10 properties.  Email alerts are sent when the Land Registry receives certain applications to change the register or for official searches and at this point the person monitoring the property can decide whether the activity is suspicious and whether they need further advice.

Examples include banks lodging searches when no mortgage has been applied for.  In this instance homeowners could take legal advice, contact Action Fraud or contact the bank directly.

Since it launched in March 2014 more than 29,000 homeowners have signed up for the service. In a recent case two fraudsters pocketed £50,000 by selling an empty home that they didn’t own. Although the fraud was spotted before it was registered the criminals are still at large.

Director of Legal Services at Land Registry Alasdair Lewis said: “Property is usually the most valuable asset people own.  It can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and can therefore be an attractive target for fraudsters.

“Property fraud is where fraudsters try to ‘steal’ your property, most commonly by pretending to be you and selling or mortgaging your property without your knowledge. Since 2009 Land Registry has stopped the registration of fraudulent transactions against properties worth more than £80 million

“However no system is ever 100 per cent effective in preventing fraud which is why we have introduced several measures home-owners can take to reduce their risk from property fraud.”

Other measures to protect against property fraud include:

  • Making sure your property is registered. If your property is registered you may be compensated if you are the innocent victim of fraud.
  • Once registered make sure the Land Registry has up-to-date contact details. The more information they have the easier it will be to reach you if needed.
  • Have a restriction placed on your property. This means a solicitor or conveyancer would need to certify they were satisfied the person selling or mortgaging the home was the true owner.

For more information and to sign up to Property Alert visit the Land Registry on https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/

If you believe you have been the victim of fraud contact the Land Registry on 0300 0067030 or Action Fraud on 0300 1232040.