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Goodbye title deeds.
In 2002 all registered titles in England and Wales were digitised and the old paper Land Certificates and Charges certificates became redundant. Roll forward to today and the digitisation of the registered titles, subject to payment of the necessary fee to the Land Registry, means anyone can access the title to your property. This, added to the increased incidence of identity fraud, has opened a new avenue to possible fraudsters. There have been a number of instances reported in the press of fraudsters posing as the owners of registered property and selling it on to an unsuspecting buyer. Whilst the fraudster is not able to pass the ownership of the property to the innocent buyer, one can imagine the anxiety the legitimate owner goes through as a result of being the victim of this type of crime. The innocent buyer stands to lose all of the monies paid over to the fraudster who needless to say will usually disappear into the ether.
So how easy is it for fraud to take place?
Initially the fraudster needs to steal the identity of, and masquerade as, the owner of the targeted property. The estate agent and solicitor must by law carry out identity checks on potential sellers, however, if their processes are less than robust, this makes the fraudsterâ€™s task that much easier and adds an air of legitimacy to their scheme.
What can you do to protect yourself?
It makes sense if you are a home owner to take certain steps to reduce the risk of your property being fraudulently sold or, in
some cases, mortgaged. Properties that are particularly at risk are those where the owner does not live there because they live overseas or in some other part of the country, rent it out, or the property is empty for long periods and not mortgaged. If you think that you may fall into any of the categories or just for peace of mind you may wish to consider the following options. The Land Registry has devised two main ways to try to alleviate the situation: 1. The placing of a restriction on your title so that no changes can be made to the Register without a solicitor or conveyancer certifying that the application is made by the registered proprietor. If you do not live at the property this is free, if you live at the property there is a fee of ÂŁ40. 2. You can also sign up to the Property Alert Service. If someone applies to change the register to your property you will be alerted by e-mail. It will not stop the changes, but you will be aware of activity on your title. Progress brings with it advantages but also new risks. Any steps the owner of a property can take to reduce those risks are recommended. We at Hart Brown can assist you in reducing risks associated with buying and selling property as well as advising and assisting on all types of legal matters. If you would like further information please feel free to call Gary 020 8947 8171 at our Wimbledon Village office. hartbrown.co.uk darlingmagazine.co.uk | feb-mar 2016
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