Empty Homes and Property Fraud
As buildings are usually the most valuable assets people own they make attractive targets for fraudsters.
Any person owning an interest in a property can become a victim of property fraud; however it becomes considerably more likely where a property is empty.
There are many different types of property fraud which can range from a fraudster using the empty property address to obtain loans and credit cards to actually claiming ownership of an empty property to raise money from mortgaging or selling it.
There are a number of things you can do to prevent fraud or forgery with respect to your property interests, which include:
- Make sure your property and title is registered with the Land Registry: State backed registration can give you greater security of title and in some situations if you have suffered a loss as a result of a fraud then compensation may be available.
- Ensure your details on the Land Registry are up to date: When Land Registry receives an application concerning your property they will send notices and letters to the address you have previously provided.
- Be careful if you are asked to sign documents: take professional advice if you are not sure what you have been asked to sign and what its legal effects might be.
- Make regular inspections of your property: check that the property is not being occupied without your knowledge or used as a correspondence address for persons you do not know.
- Keep your details up-to-date with the utility providers: fraudsters may change the utilities into their name in order to obtain ‘proof of address’ documents which may then be used to apply for credit.
If you believe you may have already been the victim of property fraud then consider contacting a solicitor or a Citizens Advice Bureau and the police. Further information on this subject can be found at www.landregistry.gov.uk and on the Home Office identify fraud website: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud_protection/identity_fraud
First published: December 2011