Singapore Expats Forum

Your home in the UK could be stolen

A moderated forum for serious discussions only.
User avatar
QRM
Manager
Manager
Posts: 1831
Joined: Mon, 17 Oct 2005
Location: Nassim hill

Your home in the UK could be stolen

Postby QRM » Thu, 17 Mar 2011 10:34 am

I just saw an article in the local International UK rag highlight the changes in the UK law, Land registry docs are now held online, which can be access by the general public.

That means anyone who has a copy of your signature and banking details, i.e. Tenants in your home, could inform the land registry of a change of address. Then start the process of selling or remortgage your home. I thought it was another of these paranoid urban myths until parent at my kids school got a call from their UK lawyer saying all the doc are ready for the sale! Had he not called they would have lost the house.

Apparently you are liable for all the debt the fraudster rack up on your home.

The UK has really gone to the dogs, first anyone can walk into your house, set up camp and police cant do anything about it and now this.

According to the report this type of fraud is on the rise.

User avatar
JR8
Immortal
Immortal
Posts: 16514
Joined: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Location: K. Puki Manis

Re: Your home in the UK could be stolen

Postby JR8 » Thu, 17 Mar 2011 6:24 pm

QRM wrote:I just saw an article in the local International UK rag highlight the changes in the UK law, Land registry docs are now held online, which can be access by the general public.

That means anyone who has a copy of your signature and banking details, i.e. Tenants in your home, could inform the land registry of a change of address. Then start the process of selling or remortgage your home.

This is true, and I have heard of it over the past 3 or so years. As I recall the people that it has impacted have successfully sued the LandReg so I'd be surprised if procedures have not been tightened up. Hmmm, one to look into I think!


I thought it was another of these paranoid urban myths until parent at my kids school got a call from their UK lawyer saying all the doc are ready for the sale! Had he not called they would have lost the house.

Quite some coincidence that the con-man instructed the real owners lawyer!?


Apparently you are liable for all the debt the fraudster rack up on your home.

Well I'm not sure about that. For example if a tenant walks off leaving unpaid utility bills or council tax you are not liable for that in any shape or form. If they managed to remortgage your property the lender would be liable due to not having performed the required proof of ID checks (which are far more rigorous than a signature and bank details). I know that if a tenant is say fined for persistent noise nuisance the owner can ultimately be held jointly and severally liable with the tenant if the latter refuses to pay, or does a bunk etc. But several notices are issued before it gets to the stage of fines, and if you have received no copies of these, I can't see how you could be held liable (if you had received them and decided to do nothing about it it would be another matter).


The UK has really gone to the dogs, first anyone can walk into your house, set up camp and police cant do anything about it and now this.

I agree Squatters Rights are absurd. The law is something like 700 years old. I'm sure it had a purpose, but those days are long gone!


According to the report this type of fraud is on the rise.

I imagine if it as easy as your article describes there would be a lot more of it going on. But it is a good heads up that UK property owners should look into. Something I've been meaning to do for a couple of years now! :?



User avatar
QRM
Manager
Manager
Posts: 1831
Joined: Mon, 17 Oct 2005
Location: Nassim hill

Postby QRM » Thu, 17 Mar 2011 6:43 pm

I have been doing a bit more digging and here is a section from a solicitors web site that has some more info.

Can my home really be stolen?

The Sunday Express recently reported that fraudster's are apparently able to steal people's houses. They claim that the 2003 abolition of paper form Land Certificates and the Land Registry's online publication of titles in England and Wales means that that fraudsters are "easily able" to transfer ownership away from the rightful owner.

Apparently the fraud is achieved by the property owner being impersonated (by a change of name or a fake ID) , and the fraudster then perhaps also uses that ID to then change the registered title deed correspondence address to that of the fraudster. In either case they then sell or even mortgage the property, yet the true owner is unaware. If the Buyer or Lender acts in 'good faith' the fraud can even be binding on the true owner!
For example, you own property but do not live there. You rent it out. The tenant is a fraudster and changes their name to yours. They get their utility bills changed into their new name. They then appear to be the owner, living at the address, and so they can simply ask a conveyancer to sell the house. Who would know?
The Sunday Express quote statistics that in 2009-10, the Land Registry paid £4.9million for 53 claims arising from fraud and forgery. However, the newspaper did not clarify whether these claims related to the subject matter of their report.

Thankfully as you can see, any such issue is minor at just a possible 53 per year, compared to millions of sales/purchases going to the Land Registry each year - the main reason for such low numbers being that solicitors have good checks in place, as do the Land Registry (see their Public Guide 17, 20 and Practice Guide 67).


But of course, even one case of fraud is too many.

So what can be done?

* A simple answer could be for all property owners to ask their solicitor to enter a 'Restriction' on their Deeds to say essentially "no sale or mortgage without consent of my solicitor" . The solicitor could then make sure on any attempted sale or mortgage that their client was effecting it. But this does seem overkill based on the above statistics, and whether solicitors would be prepared to take the risk of giving the ultimate consent is another matter. A fee would naturally be charged for that service, and the lawyer bears a risk of getting the identity of their own client correct at some point in the future.
Why a person's solicitor (and perhaps even a password as a form of client/solicitor identification)? Why not a relative? The problem with the latter is that your relative could also be impersonated, but it is not as easy to impersonate the solicitor firm. Why? If you chose your mother for the consent, the fraudster could visit a conveyancer with their own ID and a letter purportedly signed by "your mother". We suspect many conveyancers would accept that. But a conveyancer acting for the fraudster would need to write to the Law Firm themselves to get consent.
* Living at your property is clearly a great form of protection, as you can see potential buyers coming around, or mortgage companies, and post comes to you.
* But if you own your own house, and live away, then it depends on whether is it permanently empty - in which case let your neighbours will know you are away, and certainly have some sort of security against burglars let alone squatters intent on selling. In addition, make sure you update your address at the Land Registry so they can keep in touch with you at your right address.
But if you live away and rent out the property this is where the problem seems to arise, as do you really know the tenant?
However, even then, there are two practical barriers in the way of the fraudster:
conveyancers will report potential money laundering at the slightest whiff of dodgy dealing, and the forger would not know their own conveyancer has done this until they receive a knock on the door from the Authorities.
* All new clients must go through an ID check, and all conveyancers will scrutinise passports/photocard driving licences for where they have been issued/amended recently (i.e because of a possible name/address change). True, forged documents are out there, but any suspicion should be reported without telling the fraudster client.
conveyancers will ID the solicitor on the other side of the transaction to make sure they are confident that it really is another lawyer they are dealing with, rather than simply rely on letterhead paper coming in. Even the land Registry stress this should be done, though they do point out that some conveyancers are failing in this regard.
* A conveyancer should treat as potentially suspicious, any sale of a property by an owner living at an address different from the one given by the Land Registry for them. The conveyancer should ask them to change the address on the deeds to the one they are actually living at before the sale starts . If the client refuses to do it themselves, then that may also be suspicious. Conveyancers should be wary of doing the process for them if the solicitor does not know them personally.
* To protect yourself, always use a reputable solicitor firm. One who shows they are on the ball and aware of this as a potential issue. Choosing a conveyancer who simply shouts that they are the cheapest, means less time may be spent on the detail.
Having contacted the Land Registry following the Sunday Express' report, they state that 'if there is one message we would wish conveyancers to get to their customers - it is to keep their details (name and address) up to date and to remember that they can have up to 3 address for service, including an e-mail address on the register, which is perhaps the best way of ensuring that Land Registry notices alerting proprietors of changes to the register reach them."

User avatar
JR8
Immortal
Immortal
Posts: 16514
Joined: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Location: K. Puki Manis

Postby JR8 » Thu, 17 Mar 2011 7:03 pm

Thanks for that which will be most interesting to read. I'm dashing off for a long weekend any minute, so will get back to it in a few days time.

TTFN!

User avatar
JR8
Immortal
Immortal
Posts: 16514
Joined: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Location: K. Puki Manis

Postby JR8 » Mon, 21 Mar 2011 7:48 pm

Ok in summary it looks like in an ideal world the id checks are as thorough as one might hope for.

As also pointed out keeping your ownership/contact details up to date is important, and they can be updated online, together with receiving e-mail alerts re: significant events re: your property at the LandReg.

It is useful to have this heads up. The risks are probably small, but the potential loss if very large!

Thanks.


  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to “Strictly Speaking”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests