Land Registry’s possible “Home Owner Monitoring Service”

The Land Registry is considering this service, saying, “We are currently researching customer appetite for a home-owner alert service to anyone who feels they may be at risk of property fraud or to anyone who would like the comfort of knowing they will be notified if any enquiries are made against their property.  We want to hear your views on whether you would use this service and what kind of information you would be interested in knowing.  Contact us with your thoughts at commercial.services@landregistry.gsi.gov.uk

My feedback to the Land Registry is –

I am pleased to see that the Land Registry is inviting comments on this possible service: something robust certainly needs to be put in place to combat property theft, and the existing Land Registry recommendations (in a nutshell: keep your address for service up to date) simply do not cover the problem.

 I currently recommend clients who own vulnerable properties (especially mortgage-free investment properties) to enter a restriction on the register, requiring the consent of a trusted third party before any disposition is registered, but I appreciate that is a bit of a sledgehammer solution.

 If monitoring is to be adopted instead, what is needed is an effective early warning to a proprietor that someone is interested in their property: notifying a proprietor when an application to register a disposition is received is too late in the process (and useless in the case of a Transfer, when the proprietor will probably have moved); however, notifying the proprietor when someone applies for official copy registers is probably too extreme.

 A fair compromise might be to notify a proprietor if a priority search is submitted. If the conveyancer is honest and the proprietor’s address is up-to-date, that could be effective in most cases, especially if registrations were held “in suspense” for a period that is long enough to allow the proprietor to raise the alarm, but not so long as to slow down the overall process too much.

 I suggest that anyone signing up for the monitoring service should be required to give an email address, so that notification is received promptly and can be acted on quickly. Even if it cannot be acted on quickly enough to prevent the fraudulent disposition itself – in the case of a completion on the same day as the search, for instance – at least the trail would not be allowed to become too cold, and the registration of that disposition could be halted.

 If that is considered less than adequate, an extra procedural step – a pre-search notification by the prospective applicant – could be added, but this would slow down transactions (and jeopardise completion dates, if conveyancers overlooked carrying out that step) so is unlikely to meet with widespread approval

 I must confess that I cannot conceive any better protection than requiring a third party’s consent to a disposition

I will see what response I get, but any comments from readers would be welcome


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