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Live away property owners are urged to go ‘ex-directory’ in an anti fraud campaign by the Land Registry.
In a bid to stop crooks hijacking property titles for mortgage scams or bogus sales, the Land Registry has scrapped fees for a special service restricting lawyers from accessing information.
Landlords, second homers and other absent owners that register for the service will stop lawyers applying for title information if they cannot prove they act for the owners.
The latest property title fraud figures, for 2010, show 71 claims worth £7 million against properties with absent owners were settled by the Land Registry.
As part of a campaign against crooks, the £50 fee for restricting information absent owner properties has been scrapped.
Once restricted, a solicitor or conveyancer must prove the person they are acting for is the true owner of the property.
Besides protecting property owners, the campaign is about saving money.
The Land Registry pays out compensation to victims of fraud – but requiring legal firms to certify they are acting for the rightful owner lets the government agency take action to recover any pay-out from lawyers who have broken the rules.
Chief registrar Malcolm Dawson said: “We take the issue of fraud very seriously and do all we can to reduce the opportunities for fraud and to identify and take corrective action when it has happened.
“Today’s initiative is free for home owners who do not live at the property. It is designed to encourage those who feel their empty or tenanted property might be at risk, to do something to prevent it from being stolen unawares.
“We have introduced a range of additional checks and safeguards in the last four years and work closely with other organisations to do all we can to tackle fraud.”
Dawson disclosed that since September 2009, the Land Registry had stopped more than 100 suspected frauds, involving properties valued at more than £47 million.
Property owners can fraud-proof their properties by submitting the Land Registry form LL
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