An increase in fraud in property sales – how can you avoid this risk?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017 | Kirsty Clifton

2016 has seen an increase in publicity about incidences of fraud within property transactions.

Property fraud usually occurs when fraudsters steal a property owner’s identity (including recently deceased property owners) in order to sell or mortgage a property. If not discovered promptly, a property could be transferred or sold without the true owner’s knowledge. Resolving the problem is likely to be a messy, time-consuming and costly exercise.

The government has published guidance for the general public (available at www.gov.uk/protect-land-property-from-fraud) to minimise the risk of being a victim of fraud. They advise that you will be more at risk if:-

  • your identity’s been stolen
  • you rent out your property
  • you live overseas
  • the property’s empty
  • the property isn’t mortgaged
  • the property isn’t registered with Land Registry

The first step to minimise the risk of becoming a victim of fraud is to ensure that your property is registered with the Land Registry and that your contact details are up-to-date so that you can be easily contacted. Your property should be registered if it has been bought or mortgaged since 1998 – if you are unsure, you can check at https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry.

To further minimise the risk, you can sign up to Land Registry’s Property Alert Service whereby you are sent an email alert if someone applies to change the register of your property. This is a free service that can be found at  https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/propertyalert/.

If you fall into one of the identified ‘at risk’ categories above or if you are particularly concerned about the risk of fraud, you can apply to have a restriction entered on the property title. A restriction stops activity on your property, such as a transfer or a mortgage, unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies that the application was made by you. If you live at the property, the cost of requesting a restriction on the title is £40. If you do not live at the property, there is no cost to the application.

If you think that you have been the victim of property fraud, you should contact the Land Registry property fraud line on 0300 006 7030 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8.30am until 5pm. You can also contact Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk.

In order to minimise the risk of fraud, you should seek expert legal advice before entering into any conveyancing transaction. Please contact us on 01344 512370 and our conveyancing experts would be happy to discuss your sale and/or purchase and to provide you with a quote for our services.