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Warning landlords to protect themselves against property fraud

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London’s leading letting agents, Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings, today issued a warning to the capital’s landlords to protect themselves against property fraud. A growing problem in the UK, the deceit typically involves fraudsters forging a property owner’s documents and using them to transfer the property into a their own name with the Land Registry. The fraudster then applies for a mortgage against the house or flat and absconds with the cash.

So-called ‘absent landlords’ who are based outside of the capital are particularly vulnerable as the fraudster typically needs access to the property to commit the fraud. The crime can also be a problem in communal blocks of flats where post is simply deposited in a central location. Once the fraud has been committed, it is very difficult to prosecute although the effects can be devastating.

In a landmark 2008 case, a landlord who discovered a fraud on his property sought to overturn the Land Registration. While the court ruled that the property rightfully belonged to the landlord, it ruled that the charge made against the property by the mortgage lender must remain. The court stated that the mortgage company should be able to assume information from the Land Registry was correct. The mortgage company then forced a sale of the property to recovery the amount it had lent against the home.

“While the consequences of property fraud are obviously catastrophic, it can be easily prevented,” explains Marc von Grundherr of Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings. “A landlord simply needs to provide Land Registry with three sets of up-to-date contact details including an email address. Should a fraudster attempt to transfer the title, the landlord would be notified immediately and would be able to act. The service is free but unfortunately, so few landlords are aware of the issue that they fail to take this simple
step.”
-ENDS-

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About the Author

Established in 1958, Benham and Reeves is one of London’s oldest, independently owned property lettings and sales agents.  With specialism in residential sales, corporate lettings and property management in prime areas of London, the company operates from 21 prominently located branches and 14 international offices.

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