In England and Wales, the Land Registry is the organisation responsible for maintaining the Land Register. The Land Register currently documents the title of more than 24 million properties. The title comprises the evidence of ownership and a record of conditions and restrictions regarding that ownership, including any mortgages secured on the property. Land registration is now compulsory when a previously unregistered property is transferred to a new owner, mortgaged, or when certain leases are granted. The ultimate aim is to have every property in England and Wales registered in the future.
One of the goals of land registration is prevention of land-related fraud. Since 2009, the Land Registry has stopped the fraudulent registration of properties worth in excess of £80 million. Despite this, the system is not 100% safe, and around 57% of indemnity payments made by the Land Registry during 2012-2014 were related to fraudulent registrations.
Common Examples of Fraud and High-Risk Owners
Fraudsters may attack your property in a number of ways. Commonly, they will attempt to acquire ownership of your property by registering it in their own name. They may also impersonate you in order to obtain a mortgage secured against the property, then disappear with the money, leaving you, as the legitimate owner, to deal with the consequences. Certain owners are at higher risk of fraud.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad news, and the Land Registry provide services to help you protect your property.
To encourage voluntary registrations, the Land Registry are currently offering a 25% discount on voluntary first registrations for both freehold and leasehold properties. Please see https://www.gov.uk/registering-land-or-property-with-land-registry/register-for-the-first-time for more information on registering your property.
The Land Registry offers a free Property Alert service which will inform you if someone applies to change the Land Register entry for your property. This will alert you by email if an official search or application is received, for example, if someone attempts to secure a mortgage against your property. The changes aren’t automatically blocked, but the alert will warn you, with plenty of time, to take appropriate action.
Property Alerts can be set up free of charge for up to 10 properties – please see https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk for more information about Property Alerts.
By registering a Restriction against your title, the Land Registry are prevented from registering a transfer or mortgage without certification by your solicitor or conveyancer that the application was made by you. Registration of the Restriction is free of charge if you are the owner of a business premises or a residential property where you do not live, but is currently subject to a fee of £40 if the property is a residential property where you live. The relevant application form is also different for each of these three property categories – please see https://www.gov.uk/protect-land-property-from-fraud for more information about Title Restrictions.
Free Information Meeting
We are pleased to offer all potential new clients a free, no obligation information meeting.
The meeting will not normally be longer than 20-30 minutes and is designed to give us the opportunity to take a little bit more information from you and give you a general overview of what we can do to help and how much it might cost.
We find that this works very well because it allows you to make an informed decision about whether to engage our services and gives you the opportunity to establish an immediate relationship with us in person.