The owner of a let property in Devon was surprised to see a For Sale sign displayed outside when he happened to drive past the door. As far as he was concerned the property was rented out to a 75 year old man. Enquiries revealed that the tenant had fraudulently sold the house on line for £90,000.

The tenant had used a false identity when he took the tenancy of the house and then managed to pass himself of as the owner to put the property on the market. He then sold it and made off with the money. He was jailed at Exeter Crown Court for this and other offences. One of his frauds involved applying for a £25,000 loan using a false identity.

The fear of a fraudulent tenant is something that concerns many landlord insurance clients. Carrying out thorough checks on potential tenants is an essential precaution but if the tenant is an accomplished fraudster it can be very difficult to outwit him or her. Keeping an eye on the property and on sales websites and local papers is a good idea if you are concerned about the risk of your let property being put on the market by a fraudster.

What else can landlords do to reduce the risk of someone trying to sell their properties? Probably the most important step is to make sure the property has a registered title at the Land Registry. If you have owned it for several years it might still be unregistered and ownership is then proved by showing an unbroken series of deeds recording all the changes in title, mortgages and other transactions effecting it. It is far simpler with registered land because there is then a single entry on the register and it will clearly show the owner’s name. If your property is registered and you are defrauded you may well qualify for compensation. It is very important to keep your contact details at the registry up to date; otherwise you may not receive notification if the registry receives an application concerning your land.

An additional security precaution is available to owners who do not live at the registered property. They can apply to enter a restriction on the title so that it the Land Registry cannot record a change of ownership without additional proof of the vendor’s identity. This may be worth considering if you think your property is at particular risk. Take legal advice about the pros and cons from your conveyancer or solicitor.

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