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After a successful pilot scheme, the Land Registry for England and Wales has introduced an anti-fraud security measure for companies concerned property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage. Tenanted, unoccupied or mortgage free properties are known to be particularly vulnerable and property fraud can happen in many ways. For example, fraudsters may attempt to acquire ownership of a property either by using a forged document to transfer it into their own name, or by impersonating the registered owner. Once they have raised money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge, they disappear without making repayments leaving the owner to deal with the consequences. ‘Recorded incidents of forged transfers and charges are not restricted to individuals. Corporate owners such as landlords of residential and commercial properties are targeted too. Since September 2009, we have prevented frauds on over 160 applications representing properties valued in excess of £70 million,’ said Alasdair Lewis, director of legal services at the Land Registry. With fraud currently estimated to cost the economy £70 billion annually, he pointed out that it makes sense to try and deter fraudsters wherever possible. ‘Together with our top tips, our new restriction can easily be used by companies to help protect their property from being stolen,’ he added. A request by a company for a restriction can be made using Form RQ(Co). The restriction is designed to help safeguard against forgery by requiring conveyancers, for example a solicitor, to certify that they are satisfied the company transferring, leasing or mortgaging the property is the same company as the owner before any new sale, lease or mortgage is registered. They must also certify that they have taken reasonable steps to establish that anyone who executed the deed on behalf of the company held the stated office at the time of execution. There is no Land Registry fee for companies registering this restriction for up to three titles and the move follows the successful launch, three years ago, of a similar free restriction for private individuals who do not live in the property they wish to protect. Land Registry’s top tips to protect property from fraudsters include making sure the property is registered. Innocent victims of fraud who suffer a financial loss as a consequence, may be compensated once registered, so having up to date contact details on the title register is recommended. Property owners can also sign up for the multi award winning free Property Alert service which helps owners guard against property fraud on up to ten registered properties in England and Wales. Private owners and companies who feel their property might be at risk can have a restriction entered on their title register which is designed to help prevent forgery. An example is an application to register a fraudulent transfer of a tenanted property in Princes Risborough, Bucks was recently identified by the Land Registry who worked closely with Thames Valley police in their investigation of the crime. This led… Continue reading →
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