A prominent lettings agency is warning its own and all other landlords that they are particularly vulnerable to the growing threat of property fraud - especially so-called hijacking.
Marc von Grundherr, director of Benham and Reeves in London, explains that hijacking is when a ‘tenant’ will rent a property using fake documents, then change their name by Deed Poll and take on the landlord’s name which can be found on the tenancy agreement.
Using this new name and fake documents, the criminal then puts the property on the market with an estate agent.
When the property is sold and a solicitor starts the conveyancing process, it is then difficult to spot any discrepancies and the sales transaction may go through if no-one is alerted. If the criminal receives the proceeds of the sale, the money is usually swiftly transferred to an overseas bank account and impossible to retrieve.
Alternatively, a criminal may simply view details of a property on HM Land Registry’s website - this can be viewed by anyone - and target properties this way.
Von Grundherr says you could register an anti-fraud restriction on your property with HM Land Registry.
“This means that any application to register a sale or mortgage on your property must be certified by a solicitor confirming they are satisfied the person signing the documents is the registered proprietor. If not, the application will be blocked. This also acts as a deterrent to would-be fraudsters.”
He adds that there are additional steps you can take to protect yourself from property fraud.
Thorough tenant referencing: Accurate referencing is essential. It’s a complex process, so we use an independent tenant referencing company to carry out checks and protect you against the use of fake documents such as bank statements and utility bills.
Use a professional lettings agent: Let your property through a professional lettings agency that’s a member of Propertymark.
Check your credit rating: Regularly check your credit rating with a credit agency such as Experian to warn you of possible attempts at identity theft.
You can get more details here.
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