Whilst anyone owning an interest in a property can be a victim of mortgage fraud the following situations pose the greatest dangers:
- A relationship breakdown
- Where the owner is abroad or lives away from the property for large periods of time
- Where the property is empty or bought to let or where the owner is infirm or leaving in a residential home.
A victim is often unaware a fraud has taken place until they receive a repossession notice from a mortgage lender. It is then a lengthy and costly process to prove to the lender they cannot evict the innocent owner. In extreme cases properties can even be transferred into another persons name without the owner’s knowledge. Property owners can take practical steps to protect themselves from mortgage fraud.
- Registering your property at the Land Registry if your title is unregistered. If you have owned your property for over 20 years and have not mortgaged it then it is likely to be unregistered. There is a small fee for first registration but this is reduced if you apply voluntarily. You should contact a solicitor who can prepare the necessary papers for you.
- If your property is registered consider entering a restriction that will prevent the Land Registry registering any transfer of mortgage against your property unless your solicitor has confirmed the identity of the person doing so. You should check with your solicitor who can advise you if this is necessary.
- Keep the Land Registry updated if you change your address. If you do not live in the property then you should give the Land Registry another address for service or important documents and letters.
- Be careful what documents you are asked to sign. If you are not sure what you are being asked to sign always ask a solicitor to check it for first. If you think you have been a victim of mortgage fraud you should always contact a specialist solicitor immediately, as well as the Police.