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In January 2017, a mother and daughter were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud. The mother had posed as the registered proprietor of an empty property in Kensington, London worth £3,000,000. She went as far as changing her name by deed poll to that of the registered proprietor to dupe estate agents and solicitors. She then applied for a £1.2m bridging loan.

In this instance, the Land Registry identified the application as fraudulent and no changes were made to the title register. However, the £1.2m loan had already been advanced and withdrawn as cash in Dubai.

Protecting yourself

• Register your property – the majority of land in England and Wales is now registered. Registration of land is compulsory throughout England and Wales when dealing with land, for example, a sale, gift or an assent from the executors of an estate to the beneficiary. When land became compulsorily registrable will depend on where you live in England and Wales but if you have not dealt with your land since before 1st December 1990 your property may still be unregistered. Voluntary applications to register attract a reduced fee at the Land Registry. Registration will help to reduce the risk of fraud and, if you do become an innocent victim, the Land Registry is a state backed system and you may be compensated for any loss suffered.

• Updating contact details – if your property is registered, make sure your contact details at the Land Registry are up to date. You can have up to three addresses, which can include an email address. Provide an email address or address abroad if you are out of the country often.

• Track changes to the title register – when land is registered at the Land Registry you will receive a title register. It is possible to sign up to the Land Registry’s Property Alert Service which will send an email alert when certain activity is detected on your property. You can then judge whether or not it is suspicious. You can sign up for alerts on up to 10 properties and there is no fee.

• Anti-fraud restriction – this is the best option if you feel your property may be targeted. A restriction will stop certain applications (such as a transfer of ownership or mortgage) unless a solicitor confirms the application was made by you. It will also act as a deterrent to potential fraudsters trying to identify a property. If you own a property but do not live there, the Land Registry do not charge a fee to enter this restriction on your title register.

If you would like assistance updating your contact details at the Land Registry, applying for an anti-fraud restriction or clarifying whether or not your property is registered then please do not hesitate to contact our property team on 01484 821 500.