It is with an almost paranoid obsession that I make sure my team always sends a hardcopy letter to the actual property and any different address for service on the title at the beginning of a sale or remortgage transaction.
One morning, I was shocked actually to be contacted by the real owner of the property, who had received my letter and who advised that he had not been to the office to meet us and was not the one instructing us. Incidentally, they had passed the online ID check.
Luckily, this happened early enough so that there was no loss. I recommended he speak to his solicitor about fraud prevention and sent him a copy of the Land Registry’s fraud prevention leaflet. It is a good idea to have a client sign up to property alerts that notify the owner if certain transactions have taken place on their title, but I wonder if that is too much like ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’.
Surely an alert should be sent whenever anyone downloads their title giving information about who downloaded it. There will be data protection issues, but a warning to be ticked when someone downloads a title should deal with that. More radically, the register should once again be closed to the public, so that we can get a handle on property fraud.
Angela Neale, partner, Comptons Solicitors, London NW1