19 January 2017

Asset Management Q&A

We own a number of unmortgaged properties throughout the UK, and are aware that fraudulent property transactions are on the rise. Is there any way that we can easily monitor activity in relation to our properties?

Louise Irvine answers your questions.

In this bulletin our lawyers provide practical tips and solutions to frequently encountered asset management issues. Please feel free to submit your own questions by emailing [email protected]

A: The Land Registry offers a free Property Alert Service which allows you to monitor up to 10 properties. To subscribe you register your name, address and email address, and the postal address or title number of the property or properties that you are interested in monitoring. The Land Registry will start monitoring the properties once your registration has completed.

To be eligible for monitoring, the property must be in England or Wales and registered with the Land Registry. You don't have to own the property to set up an alert, and the same property can be monitored by more than one person. Companies can monitor properties, provided that they can provide an email address and contact name for the purpose of receiving alerts.

Once you have signed up to the service, the Land Registry will send an alert as and when official searches and applications are received by them in respect of a monitored property including, for example, an application to register a charge or purchase. If you are alerted to an unexpected application, you should contact the Land Registry who can investigate and take action if required.

If you change your postal or email address, it is important that you amend your registration details as soon as possible, as the Land Registry will not pay attention to email bounce backs or postal returns.

In trying to prevent fraudulent activity, the Land Registry is, of course, also interested in reducing compensation claims made against it. At present, if someone suffers loss as a result of a mistake in the title register, for example a forged mortgage is registered, they can claim indemnity or compensation for any loss from the Land Registry.

Whilst not tested to date, it is possible that the Land Registry could argue that a failure to subscribe to the alerts service should be considered by the Courts when assessing the amount of damages a victim of property fraud is entitled to by way of the Land Registry's state-backed indemnity. This is unlikely at present, given that the scheme is only two years old and not compulsory.

However, what if a property owner has subscribed to the property alert service but fails to keep their contact details updated and therefore doesn't receive an alert? If a fraudulent transaction takes place and the property owner makes a claim for indemnity, the Land Registry may have a convincing argument that the property owner has contributed to their loss by failing to exercise proper care, and therefore the indemnity should be reduced. Again, this argument hasn't yet been tested, but is further reason to ensure details are kept up to date if you do subscribe to the property alert service.


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