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Legal Updates

Land Registry – Protection from fraud

23 February 2015 #Real Estate


In view of the increased risk of fraud and following high profile cases, the Land Registry has introduced means to protect individuals and companies who own property (where the title is registered at the Land Registry) against fraudulent transactions taking place without their knowledge. This is a particular risk where there is no mortgage on the property, as the need for mortgagee consent to any transfer acts as a deterrent to would-be fraudsters.

Companies can apply to the Land Registry for a restriction to be registered on the title of up to three properties owned by them free of charge (a charge is made for more than three) in the following form:

“No disposition of the registered estate by the proprietor of the registered estate is to be completed by registration without a certificate signed by a conveyancer that the conveyancer is satisfied that (1) the company which executed the document submitted for registration as disponor is the same company as the proprietor, and (2) reasonable steps have been taken to establish that each person who signed as an officer of the company held the stated office at the time of execution.”

This places the onus on the conveyancer submitting an application to register a transfer to verify the proper identity of the company and the officers of the company who executed the transfer.

A similar restriction can be registered by individuals who do not live at the property, again free of charge for up to three titles. Individuals who live at the property can pay to register a restriction at a fee of £40 (reduced to £20 if submitted online).

Having the restriction on the title means that email alerts are sent either when Land Registry receives an application to change the register or even if an official search is made. The owner can decide whether the activity is suspicious or not and whether to seek advice.  For instance, an alert which reveals that a bank has made a search on your property would raise alarm bells if you had not applied for a mortgage. In these circumstances you may choose to contact Action Fraud, seek legal advice or contact the relevant bank.

Which properties are most likely to be at risk from property fraud?

  • Empty or unoccupied land or property – whether residential or commercial.
  • Where there has been relationship breakdown or there are other family issues – a family member or aggrieved party might try to sell or mortgage the property without others knowing about it.
  • Tenanted properties – there is a risk that, where the owner does not occupy the property, a tenant could try to defraud the landlord by trying to sell or mortgage the property without the landlord’s knowledge.
  • Properties not having a mortgage. Almost half of all registered residential properties do not have mortgages on them, according to the Land Registry’s records.

If you are concerned about the risk of fraud, or would like to take advantage of the Land Registry’s free restriction registration service, please contact us.

Clarkslegal, specialist Real Estate lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Real Estate matter please contact Clarkslegal's real estate team by email at realestate@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.

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Richard Higgs

Richard Higgs
Partner

E: rhiggs@clarkslegal.com
T: 0118 953 3981
M: 07909 964 585

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