UK: Securing The Vulnerable And Their Properties - The Land Registry Attacks Property Fraud

Last Updated: 4 December 2012
Article by Lawrence Stolworthy

You may have heard or read in the press that, as part of their continuing efforts to reduce the levels of property fraud in England and Wales, the Land Registry has now identified certain categories of property owners who may be more susceptible to property registration frauds.

The owners identified include, for example, elderly owners who have moved into a care home. Often, such parties own properties that are not subject to mortgages in favour of banks or building societies. As the titles to those properties do not then contain restrictions that prevent sales or other mortgages from being registered without the consent of the original mortgage lender, attempts could be and have been made to sell or mortgage the property following an identity fraud.

Other types of owners who may be particularly at risk of this fraudulent activity include:

  • owners who no longer live in the property (and those who reside abroad)
  • owners who let the property or who own empty property
  • owners who have already been the victim of identity fraud

The Land Registry has also identified certain types of properties that may be particularly vulnerable to registration frauds, such as:

  • unoccupied properties, whether residential or commercial
  • tenanted properties
  • high value properties that are not subject to mortgages

Having identified these types of potentially vulnerable owners and properties, the Land Registry has taken steps to combat this type of fraud and has prepared a new form of Restriction which can be registered against the title to a property. The wording of this new restriction is as follows:

"No disposition of the registered estate by the proprietor of the registered estate is to be registered without a certificate signed by a conveyancer that he is satisfied that the person who executed the document submitted for registration as disponor is the same person as the proprietor."

The purpose of this restriction is to ensure that the Land Registry will only register a future Transfer Deed of the property (i.e. a document transferring the property from you to a third party) if your solicitors or conveyancers provide a certificate confirming that they are satisfied that the person who executed the Transfer Deed purporting to be the owner actually is the owner. In other words, those solicitors or conveyancers would have to be completely satisfied that the property is being sold by the true owner and that they are satisfied as to the identity of that party.

Whilst this would not necessarily prevent property from being fraudulently sold or transferred by parties who are assisted by conveyancers who act fraudulently themselves, it should reduce the possibility that a third party, acting without legal representation, could hold themselves out as being you and sell or mortgage the property without your knowledge.

As part of our own continuing commitment to provide the highest level of service and protect our clients' interests, we would be pleased to register the restriction on your behalf against titles to your existing properties and will now also register the restriction as part of our service whenever we act for you in the purchase of a property.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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