Home > Is Your Address for Land Registry Up-to-date? House Stolen & Bought for £1.3million

Veteran war reporter, Max Hastings, has told of his shock when he and his wife Penny found out that her house in West London had been sold for £1.3m despite not being for sale!

The house is question was kept by Penny as part of her children’s future inheritance and for over two years had been let out to tenants with no intention of being sold. But the solicitor who had contacted them was stipulating that a woman had come to him as she had bought the property, received the keys, received planning permission for alterations, changed the utilities to her name and had even employed builders to fit a new kitchen.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Hastings explained how they received an email from a solicitor in Mayfair who asked them two questions. Firstly, did Penny own a house in West London; and secondly, did she know it had been sold? The first question was answered with a ‘yes’, but the second was answered with a worrying, ‘absolutely no’.

So what was going on? The good news for Hastings was that his wife was still the owner of the property; the bad news was that the lady who had purchased the house was now £1.35m out of pocket and had no house to show for it. It appears that the Land Registry had declined to register the sale having had suspicions of a fraudulent transaction, but not before the victim had secured a mortgage and sent over her money to a bank in Dubai.

This is an increasingly major fraud that is occurring, with 21 current investigations being looked into by the Met Police of homes of significant value being fraudulently sold and the money being transferred into Middle Eastern bank accounts.

You can check if your correct details are held by the Land Registry by ordering an Official Register of Title. Click here to order the document.

But just how did they achieve this in Penny’s case? The previous tenants moved out of the property in June of last year and the agents advised that a new tenant had been found. This was Kevin Hafter (now confirmed as a stolen identity) who advised he was recently divorced, had three children and wanted to move in straight away, undertaking a two-year lease.

Having received references, a declared income of £110,000 and a deposit, Hafter collected the keys by the end of the month. It was then that he placed the property on the market with Foxtons of Fulham Broadway stating that he was acting on behalf of Penny Hastings who ‘lived in Chicago’.

Promptly, a price was agreed for the house and licensed conveyancers were enlisted to help act for the alleged seller. Detailing this as one of the ‘scariest parts of the story’ Hastings goes on to reveal that a woman from South-east London subsequently changed her name by deed poll to ‘Penny Hastings’ and immediately secured a passport in this name. A photocopy of said passport was enough to secure the sale of Penny’s house, without the woman even having to appear at the estate agents to do this.

The moral of the story? It is incredibly important to make sure your address for service is up-to-date and the best contact details are listed on there. If the Land Registry have all of your details, this will help to prevent scenarios such as the above occurring as they will be contact you quickly and alert you to any potential fraudulent activity.

You can check what details the Land Registry have for your property by purchasing a copy of the register of title for your property. If, when you receive this, the details aren’t up-to-date you will need to inform the Land Registry of the changes as soon as possible. You can do so through your conveyancer; or you can choose to do this independently (you may be asked to supply additional information to verify your identity).

When updating your address for service, you have the ability to have up to three addresses detailed, including an email address, so you can make sure they are able to contact you immediately if anything arises. You are also able to have an overseas address listed or a DX address, giving you multiple options to ensure you are kept well informed.

You could for example list a UK postal address, an overseas address and an email address, but can also opt for different combinations such as two UK addresses and one email address or three overseas addresses – whichever is most convenient for you. Please note that you will always have to have at least one postal address listed on the document.

When an address needs adding or removing from the list, this will need detailing to the Land Registry in a covering letter provided by you / your conveyancer whereby it will be detailed exactly what addresses are required to be shown on the address for service.

It is also worth noting that when an address for service has been transferred through from one title to another, and it remains in the original register (this may occur when there is a transfer of part), the land registry will need notifying of all the title numbers where the change of address needs to be added.

When changing, adding or removing an address with the Land Registry, there are no charges, making it even easier to make sure that your details are continually up-to-date and to avoid any unfortunate circumstances such as that suffered by Max Hastings and his wife.

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