New fraud hotline at Land Registry gets hundreds of alerts

New fraud hotline at Land Registry gets hundreds of alerts

Six months on from the launch of the Land Registry’s property fraud line, 505 alerts have been received via phone and email.

The property fraud line was set up as the Land Registry stopped 136 frauds on property worth an estimated £60m in the 18 months to April this year. Owners of rental property are particularly at risk of fraud.

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.

In one case, a couple who are the owners of a holiday cottage rented out via a letting agent alerted the fraud line.

Mr and Mrs P were visiting the cottage when they found some correspondence relating to credit cards and other financial matters addressed to someone else using the cottage’s address. This person had rented it a few weeks previously. Also, the keys to the cottage were missing from the key safe at the property.
Mr and Mrs P contacted the police and the Land Registry’s property fraud line. Although there was, as yet, no other suspicious activity concerning their Land Registry information, the fraud line team alerted Mr and Mrs P to the fact that their contact address was out of date.

This would mean that if Land Registry needed to contact them – perhaps to tell them there was a mortgage in the process of being taken out on their property – they would not receive Land Registry’s letter. Mr and Mrs P were told how they could update their contact address, which they then did.
In the circumstances, Mr and Mrs P were also told about another Land Registry fraud protection option: the form RQ restriction. Any owner who is not living at, and does not intend to live at, a particular property can apply for one of these free of charge. The RQ restriction is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person transferring or mortgaging the property is the same person as the owner.

It provides an additional safeguard against forgery by operating as a deterrent. Mr and Mrs P applied for an RQ restriction and their property now has this additional protection in place.
Land Registry’s Property Fraud Unit spokesperson Alasdair Lewis said: “The frauds we have helped to prevent have saved those concerned a lot of grief and potentially money. We’re glad to see that the property fraud line has proved successful in preventing bad situations from getting worse.”

The property fraud line was launched in February for owners to quickly alert Land Registry if they are concerned their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage.

The telephone number is 0300 006 7030 and the line is open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

The properties most vulnerable to property fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free. Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners who do not live in the property because they live abroad, buy-to-let landlords, people in long-term hospital or residential care or where a relationship has broken down.