We’d like to preface this post with a heartfelt assurance that we have not set out to call your names. Rather, dear reader, our aim is to put together a guide suitable for even the least experienced techy types. However, please do note that if you’re having technical issues with anything other than with the Land Registry property alert service, we’re unlikely to be able to offer much more than have you tried turning it off and on again?
Now, the Land Registry, as we’re sure you’re aware, is the governmental body that keeps track of the legally registered owners of property in England and Wales. They play a key role in the conveyancing process, which means that no property can be sold or mortgaged without them knowing about it.
What you may not know is that the Land Registry has an alert service that’s completely free to sign up to. You can register to receive an alert for up to ten properties, and once you’ve done so the Land Registry will notify you if any changes take place on those properties. Essentially, should some kind of property-pinching gremlin pop onto the scene and try to make merry with the deeds to your house, the Land Registry would send you a polite email to let you know.
Why would I want to sign up?
Jokes about property-pinching gremlins aside, the property alert service is designed to help protect against fraud. Though it isn’t necessarily an everyday occurrence, property fraud can and does happen, so it is something to be aware of.
One of the most common ways for fraudsters to get a handhold on a property is to use forged identity documents to apply to re-mortgage it. If they were successful, they’d then take the money and run – leaving the genuine owner of the property with an awfully expensive mess to clean up. There have also been instances of fraudsters posing as the owner of a property in order to sell it out from under the true owner’s nose, perhaps while the true owner was on an extended trip out of the country or even living in a care home.
The risk of property fraud is higher if:
- The owner of the property has been the victim of identity theft.
- The property is rented out.
- The property remains empty for a long period.
- The property is unregistered.
- The property is not mortgaged.
These kinds of fraudulent events can be headed off at the pass with the help of the alert service. In an instance such as this, you would receive a notification from the Land Registry that something was afoot and would have the opportunity to intervene.
What if my home isn’t registered with the Land Registry?
The Land Registry estimate that 14% of property in England and Wales is still unregistered. For the most part, these unregistered properties are those that have not been sold since registration became a compulsory part of a conveyancing transaction towards the end of the last century.
If your home – or the home you wish to keep an eye on – isn’t registered, you will not be able to sign up for property alerts. As unregistered properties are considered to be at greater risk of fraud, we don’t suggest you therefore disregard the whole thing entirely. Instead, it may be wise to talk to a conveyancing solicitor about getting your property registered. Not only can this help to keep it safe, it will also save time in the future should you decide to put it on the market.
How do I start?
The actual registration process is very quick and easy, and absolutely does not require any kind of computer science degree. (Promise!) The Land Registry reckon you could do it in the time it takes to make a cup of tea, and we reckon they’re not far off.
- To get started, head on over to https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk and select the option to create a new account.
- Enter your full name and address. (This is your personal contact address and does not necessarily need to be the address you wish to monitor.)
- Enter your email address and make up a password. (On a related note, have you considered password security recently? If your usual password is on this list, may we gently suggest that it might be time for a change?!)
- Hop on over to your email account to find the activation link. (The email you’re looking for will be marked as being from HM Land Registry. You may find it in your spam folder.)
- Click on the activation link, then sign in to the alert service using the email and password you just created.
- On the home page, select the option to add a new property then search for the property you wish to find using the address.
- Select your chosen property* and click ‘monitor selected property’.
* A few quick notes here. Firstly: if the property is described as ‘unavailable’, it may be because it is not yet registered with the Land Registry. Secondly, if the property you’re searching for is leasehold, there will be two entries for it, the leasehold and the freehold. You may wish to sign up for alerts on both, or just on the one that is relevant to you.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a confirmatory email to say that the alert has been set up. Then, you can sit back, forget the whole thing and enjoy that cup of tea you were making. Just be sure to keep an eye on your inbox and spam folder in case any notifications arrive. If anything does come as a nasty surprise, there will be further instructions in the email alert about what to do next.
Can we offer you any more advice on property registration or protecting yourself from property fraud? You know where to find us if so; we’re always on hand to help vanquish property-pinching gremlins.