If you own a second property that you let out or use occasionally you need to watch out and take measures to protect your home from being sold or mortgaged by fraudsters.
Property fraud is on the increase but there are ways to ensure your asset is safe.
You are more at risk if :
- your property is mortgage free
- you live overseas
- your property is not registered at the Land Registry
- you let your property out to tenants
- your identity has been stolen
- your property is left empty
Here are some measures you can take which will serve as deterrents.
Letting your property ?
Avoid using online advertising sites; using a letting agent is a preferred method. A word of caution though, a letting agent does offer some form of protection but you can still be a victim nonetheless, it is really a matter of conducting your own due diligence. Do initial checks on the agent, are they well established?
Where possible your initial meeting should be with a named agent at the letting agents' premises.
When providing your ID to an agent you can request a written confirmation that they will comply with the Data Protection Act and will not give copies of your ID to any 3rd party without your consent. This puts them on notice that you are aware of your right to have your data protected.
Avoid receiving correspondence at an address where tenants are in occupation. Correspondence should be sent to where you reside or your place of business.
You can register a restriction at the Land Registry or register to get property alerts.
You can have up to three contact addresses with the Land Registry- having one of those addresses as a UK address will help. Remember your title deeds are public documents and can be purchased online.
With the new right to rent provisions you should receive proof of ID for your tenants.
Also an alternative address for the tenant can be requested - e.g parents home or work place.
Living abroad or property is left empty?
A restriction at the Land Registry is an effective way of knowing if any attempts are made to change the register or transfer ownership to a third party.
Use home security systems and secure the services of a security company who specializes in taking care of vacant homes.
You can use your accountant or solicitor as a contact address at the Land Registry.
An identity fraud victim has described the horror of discovering his £500,000 home up for sale on a property website. Minh To, of Stockport, Greater Manchester said he was left "scared" and "terrified" after seeing pictures of the five-bedroom home on Rightmove. Police later discovered two men had stolen his mail and forged his signature in order to falsify the documents needed to auction the house.