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Buy to let landlords shun free fraud alert service
16 March 2015
A free early warning service to alert landlords and home owners about suspected fraud bids against their properties has met with a disappointing response.
Out of 11 million homes registered with the Land Registry in England and Wales, only 19,000 owners have signed up for telephone or email alerts when someone inquires about the title of their property.
The Land Registry service has prevented fraud on properties worth more than £70 million since 2009.
The service is particularly useful for absent property owners, like buy to let landlords or expats.
Recent official figures from HM Revenue and Customs disclosed around 1.63 million landlords own 4 million rental properties in England.
The Land Registry has identified the most at-risk properties as:
• Homes with a tenant where the tenant tries to offer the home as security for a mortgage or loan
• Empty homes, where the owner is overseas or in long term care
• Homes under dispute as the result of relationship breakdowns or inheritance issues
• Homes without a mortgage
Although the alert service has a low take-up among homeowners, the Land Registry is pleased with the work of their specialist anti-fraud team.
Tracey Salvin, Property Alert Service Manager said: “The aim of Property Alert is to help people protect their home from fraudsters. There are many people who have no idea that someone could steal their home from under them, but unfortunately it can and does happen.
“For example, someone may pretend to be you using forged documents and sell or mortgage your home. While this is not common, when it does happen it can have devastating consequences for the victim.
“Imagine finding out that someone else has sold or mortgaged your property without your knowledge and disappeared with the money, leaving you to pick up the pieces. That is why we’ve introduced a number of anti-fraud measures at Land Registry including Property Alert.”
In one case, Property Alert stepped in the day after one owner registered her home with the service.
Within 24 hours of joining, the owner picked up an email notifying her that someone was trying to change the title on her home.
An investigation revealed the owner’s father had seen a solicitor with another woman posing as the home owner who agreed she wanted to transfer the property into his name.
To sign up with Property Alert, open an online account with the Land Registry or call 0300 006 0478.