Could a fraudster hijack my buy-to-let flat?
QMY 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?
ATHERE 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. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a solicitor specialising in residential property I HAVE moved to England with my company and I am currently renting an apartment in London, but I have decided that I would like to buy here in the city. I have heard the Land Registry mentioned several times. What is it — and how does it work?
IN 1862 a non-ministerial government department known as HM Land Registry — HMLR — was created to safeguard the ownership of land and property in England and Wales. The department is responsible for providing landowners with title to their property or land, which is guaranteed by the Government.
Registration of most disposals of land — both freehold and leasehold — has been compulsory for some time. These days certain events trigger compulsory first registration, for example transfers, leases and mortgages of a qualifying estate, which is a freehold estate or a lease with more than seven years to run.
Generally speaking, this means that an application must be made to HMLR for registration of land or property if you have bought it, inherited it, been given it, received the land or property in exchange for other land or property, or mortgaged the property.
For instance, if you were to buy a property in your sole name and then wished to make another person a joint owner — perhaps your partner — then such a transfer of ownership would have to be registered with HM Land Registry.
Fees paid by users of the various services provided by the Land Registry fund the department.
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.