Legal Q&A:how can I protect my empty house from property fraud?

I have heard a lot recently about fraudsters who try to acquire a property or obtain a mortgage on it with forged documents. I have an empty house which I may let out in the future – what can I do to protect my property?

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Question: I have a house which has been empty for years but eventually I would like to let it out. I have been hearing a lot recently about property fraud, which they say is getting quite common, with fraudsters trying to acquire a property using forged documents, or they will try to get a mortgage on it. What can I do to protect my house from them while it is empty, or once it is let?

Answer: As the registered proprietor of the house, your name and address will appear in the proprietorship register at the Land Registry under the title number which relates to your property. The Land Registry — a non-ministerial government department — uses this address when serving any notices relating to the property.

If the only address is that of the property which is let out or empty, there may be a delay in any such notices reaching you — or indeed, they may never reach you.

It is possible, therefore, to register three addresses for each registered proprietor, one of which may be an email address. Be sure to update the department if your addresses change.

Sign up to the Land Registry Property Alert Service so that you will receive alerts if anyone tries to deal with your house — for example, if they try to mortgage it.

Apply to the Land Registry using application Form RQ to place a restriction on your property, preventing the department from registering a sale or mortgage against it without a solicitor or conveyancer signing a certificate to confirm that the application has been made by you.

No fees are payable to the Land Registry for these services.

WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a legal director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey.


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