House Thefts. Land Thefts. Latest Court Decision. The Judges Don’t Agree What To Do.
It used to be that when you bought a house in England, you got a title Deed. Or more likely, a huge bundle of title deeds. If you had a mortgage you had to let your lender keep the bundle. If not, you likely stored them in a Bank or at your Solicitors’ offices.
No-one who didn’t need or have any right to look at them, could look at them. No-one could copy them, no-one could pretend to be you and then sell your house to an innocent third party and steal all the money.
You might wonder, why has that system been replaced for the system we have now? That is, by a system where A CROOK CAN LOOK AT YOUR DEEDS ONLINE FOR £3.00 AND PRINT THEM OUT IN UNDER A MINUTE.
Then all they have to do, is pretend to be you, and they can sell your house. Or more precisely, persuade innocent buyers into paying the crook for the house in the belief that they are buying it.
Ok there is a lot more they have to do, in terms of having the computer knowledge to hide the money once they have got it, and having the sheer brass neck and basic criminality in the first place. And the crook needs to find an empty house, because a buyer would not buy it with you in it.
An exception to the empty house point, is the documented case of the criminal taking a tenancy of a property, then selling it as the owner, after actually changing his own name to the name of the property owner, by Deed Poll!
That enabled him to get a real driving license, council tax bill, bank account, all in the name of the real owner. Link here
But the “open register” system has removed the most basic protection of all. Title Deeds.
This new system has been in place since 2003.
In 2009, identity theft according to the guardian, was the UK’s fastest growing crime https://www.theguardian.com/media/blog/2009/oct/12/ukcrime-id-theft-rising
And in 2018? The Register says, ID theft in UK hits a record high https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/04/18/id_theft_in_uk_at_record_high_cifas_report/
Can you tell me this – Why can I find out who owns a house worth millions, and whether they have a mortgage, and then print their ”deeds” from the Land Registry, yet I can’t find out who owns a car worth £500, from the DVLA?
Surely the obvious thing is that the Government should immediately block the public access to the Land registry information?
Anyway, until the Government finds a brain cell, [and don’t hold your breath about that], the reality is that crooks can easily get the information and documents which they need to steal your house. The question then arises, what should be done with the stable door?
Basically when a crook C has pretended to be an Owner O and “sold” a house to Buyers B then run away with the money, and C has used a solicitor SC [who thinks that C is O and that they are therefore acting for O] and B has used a solicitor SB, the compensation choices are
1 C intended to steal Money from B and has done so. No one is to blame but C who has disappeared. B has lost the money and no one will compensate B
2 SC has been careless in letting B and SB believe that SC actually acted for O. SC should reimburse B
3 SB has been instructed and paid by B to complete a transfer of the house into the name of B. This has not happened. SB must reimburse B
4 Between them SB and SC were warranting to B that they are competent solicitors who will work together to ensure that house ownership is transferred to B. This has not been achieved and so both must share in reimbursing B
And believe it or not, as my earlier blogs have explained, each of the possible 4 choices has been the result of choice settled upon by a Judge in at least one case.
So it is clear, the Courts haven’t known what to do, each Court has decided to deal with the problem in a different way.
Now what’s new is that we have very recently had the news of a decision upon appeal of the “Dreamvar” case which I have blogged about earlier – link here –
As it was decided in February 2018 – most surprisingly, – the Judge ordered that it should be the Solicitors acting for the innocent Buyers who should reimburse their client. Option 3 of the 4 above.
In a nutshell, the 15th May 2018 Appeal decision has fudged the question and plumped for option 4 – both sets of lawyers must reimburse. –Link to Case Report here –
I think it is fair to say that most commentators and lawyers were expecting option 2.
That seems the right one to me in a case where the “selling” lawyers SC have been less than careful to identify not only Mr X – the person in their office, but also the relationship between Mr X and the ownership of the property.
And it is therefore interesting to note that one of the three judges who decided this appeal, does not agree with the decision. That dissenting Judge said “I consider that ….SB… ought fairly to be excused”.
So the result is that, if the Courts can’t tell them, no-one in the business of Conveyancing has much idea of the extent of their risk and insurance obligation.
I will treat us all to another Blog no doubt, when this latest decision is itself appealed!
It’s my House – Link Here – – Don’t let anyone steal it.
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