Home owners who do not live at their property can now make a request to the Land Registry to enter a restriction on the title to the property – requiring solicitors and conveyancers to certify that someone selling or mortgaging a property is the true owner. There is no charge payable to the Land Registry for this service.
This anti-fraud initiative has been welcomed by the Law Society. Jonathan Smithers, Chair of the Conveyancing and Land Law Committee, said: "Empty or tenanted properties are more at risk than owner occupied homes and the introduction of this scheme will enable solicitors to help owners to protect their property from fraud and forgery."
Chief Land Registrar Malcolm Dawson said Land Registry took the issue of fraud very seriously.
"We work closely with other organisations including the Law Society to do all we can to reduce the opportunities for fraud and to identify and take corrective action when it has happened," he said.
"This initiative 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. While no system can eradicate fraud completely, since September 2009 we have prevented frauds on more than 100 applications representing properties valued in excess of some £47 million."
This initiative will be reviewed and evaluated after six months to take account of any lessons or issues that have arisen in that period.