Property fraud: how to make sure fraudsters can't hijack a buy-to-let property

Is it just an urban myth that tenants can sell a rented home fraudulently? 

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My neighbour says I have to be ever so careful about my buy-to-let property. She says that tenants sometimes hijack where they are renting by pretending to be the owner. Then they sell the place. How can this happen? Or is it just an urban myth?

Answer: There are many types of property fraud and property hijacking can occur. Property that is empty, let to tenants, not mortgaged or not registered at HM Land Registry is more vulnerable to fraud.

Your tenant could change their name by deed poll so that it’s the same as yours, pretend to be you and then sell your property, probably to a cash buyer. 

Some lenders have onerous lending criteria and so a cash buyer who may take more risks when buying a property is more appealing to a fraudster.

Protect your property using the Land Registry property alert service, which provides an alert if anyone tries to deal with your property. The alert would be sent to you by email if anyone carries out an official search or makes an application in relation to your property. The service is free and landlords can register up to 10 properties.

As the registered proprietor you can enter up to three addresses for service on the register, one of which can be an email address, and you can also apply to HM Land Registry to register a restriction on the title to your property to stop the sale of the place being registered unless a solicitor or conveyancer certifies that the application was made by you.

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email 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. 

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