By Mark Willey, Terence Willey & Co

A quite remarkable case that hit the national headlines recently was that of a church vicar, Reverend Mike Hall who, after returning from an extended work trip to North Wales, arrived home to find his possessions gone and builders stripping out his property in Luton.

His neighbours called him to raise concerns that somebody was inside his property, and when Rev Hall returned, he was told by the occupant to get out of his own house as he was trespassing.

The new owner’s details had been registered as the new owner at the Land Registry, but an investigation established that Rev Hall’s identity had been stolen and that the fraudsters had pocketed £131,000 from the sale of his property in July 2021.

The police commented that it was a very stressful and anxious time for Rev Hall and they were determined to get justice for him in what they described as a very unusual and sophisticated case.

So, is there anything Rev Hall could of done to protect against this? Likewise is there anything property owners should consider doing in light of this unusual case? The  answer is most definitely yes!

The Land Registry has a property Alert Service which is to help you protect your property against fraud. And these are the key aspects of the service which can be set up at;

Monitor a property if it’s already registered with HM Land Registry

Monitor the property of a relative – you don’t have to own a property to set up an alert

Choose up to 10 properties to monitor

The Land Registry will send you an email alert each time there is significant activity on the property you are monitoring, such as if a new mortgage is taken out against it.

The alert will tell you the type of activity (such as an application to change the register or a notification that an application may be due), who the applicant is and the date and time it has been received.

Not all alert emails will mean fraudulent activity. If you don’t think the alert email is about any suspicious activity, you don’t need to do anything.

Signing up to Property Alert won’t automatically stop fraud from happening. You will need to decide if the activity on the property is potentially fraudulent and act quickly if so. The alert email will tell you who to contact.

This is a very useful service and one I would encourage all property owners to conider using. It has been raised with the Land Registry as to why this is not an “opt out” service, with the alert being created automatically.  This is mainly due to consent and GDPR, but the Land Registry is looking into making it an automatic process when a property is purchased.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, have a look online and register for the Land Registry Property Alerts service.