A recent case of a fraudulent property transaction has been making headlines and provides a stark warning to both conveyancers and property owners.

The owner of the property in question was working away from his Luton property when he was informed by neighbours that there was activity in the home. Upon returning, he discovered that his house had been sold to a new owner by someone using his identity, who had pocketed the proceeds of sale.

The suspected ‘imposter’ seller was subsequently arrested on suspicion of fraud, however, there is no simple resolution to the case, as one of (or both) the proper owner and the buyer will have suffered a loss depending on the outcome.

Conveyancers should always carry out thorough checks on the identity of their clients to minimise the risk of property fraud. Our firm has in place numerous due diligence requirements that we ask clients to comply with and carry out ourselves before proceeding with any transaction.

We always recommend that property owners sign up to HM Land Registry’s Property Alert Service, especially if they are out of the country, there is no mortgage, or if the property is let or will be vacant for a length of time. You do not need to be an owner of the property to sign up, for example, you could sign up for the service if you wanted to receive alerts about a property belonging to a relative.

Unregistered property can be particularly vulnerable to fraud. In some instances fraudsters create fake deeds to show the fraudster as the owner of the property. We would therefore recommend that any owners of unregistered property consider a voluntary application for first registration to better protect their ownership of their property, and to allow them to sign up to the above service and get alerts for their property.

If you would like advice concerning anything we have raised, please get in touch with a member of our Property team today.

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