A timely reminder on the very real threat of property fraud from an article in the Daily Mail at the weekend. This features Max Hastings and his wife Laura’s London property.
The first they knew that someone had purported to sell her house was when Laura received a letter from a Mayfair solicitor asking if they knew the house had been sold.
The Land Registry had refused to register the sale so the title remained in Laura’s name. The victim was the buyer who had paid £1.3 million for the property in cash with no mortgage. The tenant at the property acting under a false name (who had been vetted by the letting agent and paid the tenancy deposit but never moved in), marketed the property through estate agents in London. The tenant claimed to be acting for Mrs Hastings as her agent. A firm of licenced conveyancers acted for “Mrs Hastings” who was impersonated by a woman who had changed her name by deed poll and obtained a passport in this name. The sale proceeds were ultimately paid into a Dubai bank account. Mr Hafter has not been traced. He is no doubt enjoying the money in Dubai. The woman was already in prison for similar crimes.
The property targeted had no mortgage and the owner did not live locally common type of property to be targeted.
The reason for these frauds is that there are no longer deeds and land registry entries are made online. There are protections that can be put in place for vulnerable empty or buy to let properties. One is a restriction we can place on the title following completion of the purchase of a buy to let property. The other can be done by any one who owns a property so that they get an email if any request for the transfer of their title is received by the Land Registry. This is the Land Registry property alert https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/