A Land Registry form has been introduced to encourage home owners to request that solicitors and conveyancers register a restriction certifying the identity of the person selling a property.
As an additional safeguard, Form LL in the list of standard restrictions ensures that solicitors acknowledge they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.
The service is free for owners of empty properties, such as those who live overseas, which are most susceptible to fraud, while a £50 fee is payable by owner-occupiers.
The move follows an increased focus in tackling mortgage fraud which resulted in the Land Registry paying £7.3m in compensation to property owners who were victims of fraud and forgery in 2010.
Controls over how properties are sold are getting tighter, which has led to many lenders cutting their panels and imposing more stringent criteria for membership.
The Financial Services Authority echoed its concern with a requirement to know your supplier which will lead to closer relationships between lenders and legal firms.
Consumer protection is key and lawyers, lenders and mortgage introducers must be vigilant and not just leave it to the regulators and industry bodies.
We must all take responsibility to ensure due diligence tools and safeguards are in place to ensure it doesn’t happen on our watch.