Vicar whose house was sold by crooks now has squatters
A CLERGYMAN whose house was sold without his knowledge has won it back after a two-year legal battle – only to find squatters living there.
The Reverend Mike Hall lost his terraced house after someone stole his identity and sold it to an unsuspecting buyer.
His legal woes began after the Land Registry allowed the sale to go through and formally removed his name from the deeds. The error was finally overturned this week but when he went to inspect the threebedroom property in Luton, he found a couple and their two children had moved in.
Police have established they signed a contract with a bogus letting firm that took their payment in cash. Mr Hall, 56, is now taking further legal action to have them evicted but it could be weeks before he has the keys to his own house again.
In another blow, the Land Registry is not obliged to pay compensation for the ‘emotional distress’ he has suffered.
Instead, he is only able to negotiate with them for repairs to the house for damage and wear and tear that occurred during his enforced absence, which he estimates to be £60,000. Mr Hall, who lives in north Wales, has also lost £9,000 in rental income – which he is also unable to claim back.
‘There’s nothing in the Land Registry Act that entitles me to claim for emotional damage, loss of income, nothing like that,’ he said. ‘It should be changed.
‘I’ve had the emotional distress of this two-and-a-half year battle to get it back and now there are illegal occupants there. I’ve lived a nightmare on a daily basis.’
Mr Hall bought the property in 1990 but in August 2021 he learned someone impersonating him had sold it for £131,000. Describing the scene after he came home when neighbours alerted him to suspicious behaviour, he said: ‘I tried my key in the front door, it didn’t work and a man opened the front door to me – and the shock of seeing the house completely stripped of furniture... everything was out of the property.’
His identity was stolen by someone who obtained a duplicate driving licence in Mr Hall’s name and set up a bank account, an investigation by BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme revealed. A man was
‘My key didn’t work’
arrested in connection with the scam in November 2021 on suspicion of fraud by false representation but was freed under investigation.
When the innocent purchaser refused to hand the property back, Mr Hall began court proceedings – which ended earlier this year when the man backed down just before a trial. The Land Registry then began the process of reinstating him as the named owner, which was concluded on Tuesday. The man who bought the house is understood to have been compensated by the registry.
A Land Registry spokesman said: ‘We are currently working with Mr Hall and his solicitors.’