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Way to combat property fraud?

View profile for Paul Harris
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There have been a number of cases recently that have hit the headlines for the fact that people have fraudulently claimed to be the owner of property and sold said property to an unsuspecting buyer.

This results with the ‘seller’ making off with a large amount of money and the buyer being left out of pocket with no return for the cash that he has paid. Of course there is a duty on conveyancers to ensure that they have identified their clients to the best of their ability which involves the usual tedious but important task of asking their client for various forms of identification (which isn’t always fool proof in any event).

The latest initiative by the Land Registry shows that they are taking steps to combat property fraud. Title deeds to property are kept in electronic form at the Land Registry nowadays and contain the official record of who owns what property. You are able to place what is known as a ‘Restriction’ on a property’s title deeds to restrict that property being sold, leased or otherwise disposed of without certain preconditions being met.
 
The Land Registry have come up with a new restriction to be placed on property which prevents a disposition of property owned by private individuals ‘without a certificate signed by a conveyancer that the conveyancer is satisfied that the person who executed the document submitted for registration as disponor is the same person as the proprietor’. Not particularly catchy but, in short, if such a restriction is placed on the title of the property it means that a conveyancer will need to be satisfied that the person making the disposition is the registered owner of the property. The Land Registry have introduced a similar restriction that can be implemented in respect of commercial property as well.
 
It remains to be seen how effective such restrictions will be in combating property fraud, the need for conveyancers to identify their client remains. It should however give legitimate property owners a bit more peace of mind when it comes to the ownership of their property. 

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