Property scam – a cautionary tale

by Alexander Beard, on Feb 19, 2018 9:42:28 AM

It’s a troubling norm of today’s society that most people will have heard a horror story about property fraud from a family member, a colleague from work or simply reading online. Importantly, these stories need to be kept in perspective: remember, the tales of properties being rented and sold without any noteworthy problems are the ones people usually don’t bother sharing! However, it’s also worth taking heed of the negative experiences of others to ensure you do everything you can to avoid falling into similar traps.

Take this story recently shared by a taxation and accountancy firm of a property fraud of more than £400,000. An individual had been renting a property he owned to the same tenants for an extended period of time. During the rental period, one of the tenants changed his name to that of his landlord by deed poll, then successfully applied for new identification under his newly assumed name. Having done all of this, the tenant then engaged the services of an estate agent to sell the property. The tenant was then able to appoint a solicitor to complete the sale of the property for over £400,000 after successfully passing all the required identification checks.

The alarm was originally raised by a local bank after the sale had gone through, and the matter was reportedly being dealt with by the police at the end of last year. However, as both the solicitor and estate agent had completed all the necessary checks, the owner of the property has been told that receiving any of his money back is unlikely. One possible resolution is to have HM Land Registry re-register the property to him, which would mean the person who purchased the house from the tenant in good faith will be the party who ultimately loses out.

So what can you do to ensure any property you own and rent out doesn’t become subject to a similar type of fraud? The best advice is to use the Property Alert service which the Land Registry provide, which will report any changes on your property to you. Whilst the service doesn’t automatically block these changes, it will help you to spot any unexpected or potentially fraudulent activity and take action as early as possible.