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Masthead Local Govt - Property

Law Society and Land Registry issue joint note on property and title fraud

The Law Society and HM Land Registry have issued a joint advice note on property and title fraud amid concerns that recorded incidents are rising.

The two bodies said the note was intended to provide a practical guide for solicitors on some of the indicators of potential fraud in land transactions and registration of title.

“It is intended as a reference point for the legal profession to be of assistance in recognising potential fraud, but not to set a regulatory framework. In view of the rapidly evolving nature of title fraud, it should be recognised that this note cannot cover all fraud scenarios and types of fraud threat affecting title to land,” they added.

Attacks often include the presentation of forged registration or identity documents as part of HM Land Registry applications.

The note covers:

  • Introduction.
  • Fraud threats for property transactions: methods used to carry out title fraud; methods used for identity theft in title fraud.
  • Mitigating fraud threats: client identity; address for service at HM Land Registry; company impersonation; overseas companies; searching Companies House; identity document provisions; enhanced due diligence; record keeping.
  • Information sources.

A copy of the note can be downloaded here.

The Law Society and HM Land Registry acknowledged that the Court of Appeal was likely to consider issues raised by the note in the next year or so.

However they added that they considered it “important that the Note be publicised to solicitors now in order to increase awareness of indicators of potential fraud. This Note does not and it is not intended to specify any professional duties in relation to fraud or dealing with it. It is hoped that a future decision in the Court of Appeal will provide greater certainty in those respects. This Note may then need to be updated accordingly.

“Pending the outcome of an appeal, the joint Law Society and HM Land Registry Practice Note on this topic of 11 October 2010 will not be withdrawn. HM Land Registry's own practice guides, detailed in paragraph 4.1, are unaffected by this Note.”

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