Could a fraud­ster hi­jack my buy-to-let flat?

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Ask The Expert - Fiona Mc­Nulty

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.

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