Cohabitation Agreements

What is a Cohabitation Agreement and what are the benefits of having one?

More and more families in England and Wales are comprised of cohabiting couples, with a proportion of those families believing they have the same rights similar to a married couple, especially if they have cohabited for a long time. However, the “common law marriage” is a myth and cohabiting couples have little protection under the law in England and Wales.

How can cohabiting couples protect themselves?

As cohabitees, there is no legal right to share your former partner’s income or assets if the relationship breaks down. Furthermore, there is no entitlement to your former partner’s pension. If there is a conflict as to what should happen to your home, the law is very complex and proceedings are often expensive.

A cohabitation agreement, is a written document which is tailored to the financial position of both you and your partner. The agreement allows you to detail the property and assets each of you own. It can also be clearly set out how those assets are to be divided in the event the relationship breaks down. For example the agreement can detail how the home should be divided in the event where one party has contributed more to the deposit.

However a cohabitation agreement can not make provision for pension sharing on separation, as this only applies to divorce only.

A cohabitation agreement can also detail who is responsible the day to day finances during the relationship.

How to make a Cohabitation Agreement

A cohabitation agreement can be entered into at any time, whether that be at the start of you cohabiting, or whether you have lived together for many years.

We have extensive experience in drafting cohabitation agreements and we can advise accordingly based on your circumstances and needs. We offer an efficient service and can help on how to protect yourself further for example making a Will.

Our specialist team are available on 0191 297 0011. Alternatively feel free to email us on wb@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk or raise an enquiry through our website www.kiddspoorlaw.co.uk

Getting married in 2024?

Is 2024 your year for getting married?

If the answer is yes, have you considered a pre-nuptial agreement?

A pre-nuptial agreement is a document created pre marriage or civil partnership in which a couple sets out how they wish their assets to be divided in the event of divorce. This may cover: savings, property, income, inheritance and debts; whether they are acquired individually or jointly, before or during the marriage

Although they are not legally binding in UK law they are certainly worthwhile in the event of a disagreement upon separation/divorce.

Judges have expressed fears that if they were binding, it would open the door to one party being disadvantaged when the time came, perhaps many years later, for financial settlement following divorce.

Although a Judge can not enforce an Agreement he can add weight to what has been agreed. The legal position is moving in the direction of acceptance.

Account will also be taken of the fairness in the circumstances that have arisen over the years, by the time of the financial settlement and also the capacity of the weaker party to have said no at the time.

Are they enforceable?

Of paramount importance are the provisions for the welfare of children in the family under the age of eighteen. Then, in order to determine how the assets of the marriage are split, the court will consider:

  • the financial resources available to each party
  • their financial needs, obligations and responsibilities
  • the standard of living of the family before the breakdown of the marriage
  • the age of each party and the duration of the marriage
  • physical or mental disabilities of either party
  • he contributions which each party have made to the family. including looking after the home or caring for the children
  • the value to either party of any benefit which they would lose the chance of acquiring (pensions)

Will they be upheld?

Before entering into an agreement ensure the following are adhered too:

  • it must be at least 28 days before marriage
  • there must be no pressure or duress to sign
  • full disclosure of both parties’ assets must be made
  • the agreement should be fair and realistic
  • provisions should be made for children, alive or yet to be born.

The agreement may be disregarded by court if there is deemed to have been a change of circumstance which renders it inappropriate.

It is also advisable to periodically review your Agreement.

For further advise and assistance please contact Kirsty Tighe, Head of Family Law on 0191 297 0011 or via email at wb@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk

Vacancy – Receptionist & Admin Assistant

Role: Receptionist & Admin Assistant

Overview

We are looking for a professional and welcoming receptionist to join our team.

Role & Responsibilities

The successful candidate will be required to:

  • Operate the firms switchboard effectively including voicemails
  • Monitor the reception mailbox/emails and incoming faxes and distribute accordingly
  • Greet the firm’s clients and visitors in a friendly and helpful manner and assist with photocopying, witnessing documents
  • Deal with incoming and outgoing mail
  • Assist with the scheduling of appointments/meetings
  • Take card machine payments, issue receipts and provide daily payment records to the Cashier
  • Ensure stationary cupboards are fully stocked
  • Maintaining the Wills/Deeds storage database and the filing of record cards
  • To ensure the reception area and meeting room are kept clean and tidy

When not engaged in the main duties above you will support other departments/teams by undertaking tasks including but not limited to the following:

  • Making and receiving phone calls
  • Liaising with solicitors, estate agents, courts and other agencies
  • Maintaining client files/database
  • Dealing with routine post and telephone calls
  • Dealing promptly with telephone enquiries from clients and third parties
  • Assisting other team members as instructed
  • Opening and closing files
  • To carry out such other duties as directed by the Practice Manager

Requirements

  • Experience of working in a Solicitors office would be advantageous but not essential.
  • A minimum of 3 years receptionist experience

Salary

A competitive salary will be offered.

Hours

Monday to Friday 9am until 5pm with 1 hour 15 minute unpaid lunch.

To apply, email your CV and covering letter: jc@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk

Closing date: 20 October 2023

Practice Manager Changes

After more than 28 years with Kidd and Spoor, practice manager Carol Nattrass leaves us for a long, happy and well-earned retirement. Carol will be hugely missed, having cared for everyone and everything she touched with sincerity and dedication. Happy retirement Carol!

We are delighted to welcome Jill Clattenburg, who joins us with vast experience in the legal profession, as our new practice manager. Jill has immediately “hit the ground running”, with warmth, enthusiasm and energy. Welcome aboard Jill!

Annual Charity Golf Day 2023

Kidd and Spoor hosted their annual charity golf day on Friday 28th July 2023 Tynemouth Golf Club

The event was a huge success, attended by 20 teams of golfers who enjoyed a competitive round of golf and hospitality at the nineteenth hole. The eventual winners of the day were True Solicitors LLP, congratulations!

The event raised £1,057 for Prostate Cancer UK, and Nigel Miller and Noel Dilks would like to thank all those who attended and for contributing so generously to such a worthwhile cause. A special thanks to Accenture who have donated an additional £100 to the charity.

Prostate Cancer UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1005541) and in Scotland (SC039332). Registered company 02653887.

New Practice Manager – Jill Clattenburg

We are very pleased to welcome the arrival of Jill Clattenburg as Practice Manager for Kidd and Spoor Solicitors Ltd.

Jill gained a wealth of experience as Operation and Facilities Manager with Legal 500 specialist firm, Silk Family Law.  Her role will oversee the day to day activities and administration of the practice and ensure clients and staff are top of my priority.

Welcome Jill!

Selling a property after someone has died

When someone dies, all their belongings and property vest in their personal representatives who must enter into any agreement to sell the property and sign the necessary transfers, which are called ‘assents’.

‘Selling a home or holiday home when someone has died is similar in many ways to a conventional property transaction,’ explains Christine Blenkinsop, a Licensed Conveyancer in the  conveyancing team with Kidd & spoor Solicitors Limited. ‘However, there are some important differences and additional procedures you must follow. This can mean a sale takes longer or is more complicated, but there is a lot you can do to make things easier.’

Check you can deal with the property

Ideally, your loved one will have made a will and their wishes will be clear. If you are named as executor, you may decide to renounce this role. However, you will then have no say over the administration or sale of the property.

If there is no will, then the situation is more complicated. There are rules which determine who can be a personal representative, known as an ‘administrator’. This will usually be the closest surviving relative. In this case, you will need to apply to the probate court for authority to act.

You will need a copy of the certificate from the Probate Registry formally recognising your authority to act before you can enter into any agreement to sell property. Your solicitor will also need to see this, in addition to evidence of your identity, as part of the mandatory checks they must carry out.

Identify the property

Usually, you will know about any property your loved one had, particularly if this was also the family home. However, you should check they were in fact the legal owner.

Most land is now registered, and your solicitor can confirm ownership by carrying out a simple search at the Land Registry. This can also be useful for establishing the extent of the property and any outstanding mortgages.

Occasionally, there is a discrepancy between the registered extent and what is there on the ground. For example, this could be because your loved one informally acquired additional land over the years. Regularising this, for example, through an application to the Land Registry to include that land in the title, can avoid issues when you come to sell.

Sometimes the title has not been registered, for example because the property has not changed hands for a very long time. In this case, you will need to find the deeds. They could be in the property or a place of safe keeping, such as a bank or solicitor’s office. If there is an outstanding mortgage, the lender is likely to have the deeds and your solicitor will request them. Otherwise, locating them may involve some detective work. If this fails, your solicitor may be able to reconstitute the title and apply to the Land Registry for its registration based on the available information.

Dealing correctly with jointly owned property

If your loved one owned property with someone else, you will need to work out whether they were a joint tenant or a tenant in common. If they were a joint tenant, the property will not form part of their estate. Instead, it will pass automatically to the surviving co-owner(s). Conversely, if they were a tenant in common, you will have to deal with their share under their will. For example, if your loved one left their share in the matrimonial home to their surviving spouse, you will need to transfer it to them. The surviving spouse may then become the sole legal and beneficial owner and deal with the property in their own name.

If you are not sure whether your loved one was a joint tenant or tenant in common, your solicitor should be able to tell from the register of title at the Land Registry. However, your solicitor may need to look at the original transfer to check this. It is also possible the situation may have changed, so it is important to share any information you may have with them.

Decide on the valuation you need

A formal valuation can help ensure you deal with the estate properly, and this will be needed for calculating any inheritance tax (IHT). You can ask a local estate agent for this, or commission a report from a chartered surveyor.

An estate agent may agree to give a market appraisal for probate purposes without charge, but their valuation may be on the high side if they hope to attract business. Asking three agents, then averaging their valuations could counter this.

However, paying for a professional valuation from a chartered surveyor may be the better option if the property is high-value, non-standard, or if there is any risk of contention.

You will usually need to agree and have paid any IHT due before the Probate Registry will issue the grant of probate. Unfortunately, agreeing the correct IHT market value of a property is not always straightforward. HMRC will take advice from the District Valuer and may not agree with your figures.

Having a robust valuation report, and the right professionals on board, will help in any negotiations. This is especially important if you find yourself in a catch 22 situation because you need to sell the property to pay the IHT due. In that case, you may need to take out an executor’s loan or ask HMRC for credit. So, knowing the true value of the property is essential.

What can you do before the grant of probate?

Executors and administrators perform a similar role. However, an executor derives authority from the will, and the grant of probate simply confirms that authority. In contrast, an administrator is only authorised once they have the grant of administration.

This distinction has practical implications. If you are an executor, although you cannot enter a sale contract before obtaining the grant, you can manage the property and start preparing it for sale. For example, you may decide to clear the property out, or choose an estate agent to market it. In contrast, a person entitled to become the administrator should ordinarily wait until they obtain the grant.

If you do decide to put the property on the market, our solicitors can help to carefully manage the gap between accepting any offer and getting the grant of probate.

Collecting property information

If you want to get ahead, there are things you can do to prepare the property even before marketing it.

As well as carrying out any necessary maintenance, gather as much information about the property as you can. For example, you may find old title deeds, evidence of mortgages being paid off, or guarantees for double glazing or building works.

Completing the Property Information Form and answering the buyer’s pre-contract enquiries can be difficult when you lack relevant personal experience. So, any paperwork telling you about the property may help especially if the property is an apartment or other leasehold. The buyer will want evidence that ground rent and service charge payments are up to date, and any necessary consents from the landlord, for example, for alterations, are in place.

It is not uncommon for a sale by personal representatives to take a little longer than a conventional one. This is mainly down to the time it can take to obtain the grant of probate. However, you could use this time to ensure the property’s title is in order and to address any potential issues. For example, a charge which has been paid off may still be registered against the property, or the register may show a restriction which is no longer relevant. Your buyer will need these removed before completion. Investigating and resolving them now will save you time later. If you are physically preparing the property for sale, why not ask your solicitor to audit the title at the same time?

How we can help

Our solicitors are experienced in probate property sales and we understand the special demands you will face as a personal representative.

For further information, please contact Christine Blenkinsop or Neil Shearer in the  conveyancing team on 0191 2970011 or email cb@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk or ns@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk

Transferring property to your children

Almost one in two first-time buyers receive some financial assistance from their parents, but cash gifts or mortgage support are not the only ways to help the next generation. If you are asset rich and own land, vacant buildings or a second home, transferring property to a child is another option.

‘People sometimes have a separate outbuilding, such as a gite or annex, which they would like to gift. Alternatively, the subdivision of a farm or large garden could provide the site for a child to build their own home,’ says Christine Blenkinsop, a Licensed Conveyancer in the conveyancing team with Kidd & Spoor Solicitors Limited. ‘However, it is important to consider your own needs, and how these may change over time. Transferring property to a child can also raise different issues to a traditional conventional transaction, so it is important to get the right professional advice especially on the tax issues.’

Transferring property to your children, the mechanics

The administrative process of transferring property to an adult child is like any other transfer. You, and any other legal co-owner of the property, will need to complete a deed of transfer. This is usually quite straightforward; however, it is also necessary to complete the correct formalities at the Land Registry or the legal title will not pass. Failing to do this could cause problems much later for the administrators of your estate and for your child.

You may not need all the searches and enquiries you would on a regular transaction. After all, this is a property you already know well, but you should discuss your plans with your solicitor at an early stage. A quick review of your title means you can address any concerns before passing your property on. If this is not possible in the time frame, at least your children will know about any issues and what they can do. For example, if you intend to transfer surplus garden land so your child can build on it, it is important to know of any legal restrictions which could affect this.

If your property is subject to a mortgage, then your lender will usually require you to pay it off before any transfer, although there may be exceptions. For example, if the transfer is only of part of the land mortgaged, then they may agree to release that part. In any case, speak to your lender and discuss the proposed arrangement with your solicitor early on. They will need to ensure the lender’s requirements are satisfied, and the charge over the transferred land released.

Transferring property to more than one child

It is not unusual for two or more people to be joint owners, and there should be no difficulty transferring property to more than one adult child. However, this can often be more complicated.

For example, will you retain any interest in the property? Should your children share in any future profits from rent or the property’s sale, equally or in defined shares? If one of them dies, should their share pass to their beneficiary or should the survivors own the whole? The answers will determine whether you transfer the property to them as joint tenants or tenants in common, and the need for any additional provisions. This, in turn, will determine how they can deal with the property in the future.

Co-ownership is possible through a trust, and our solicitors can advise on the appropriate legal structure to reflect the intended relationship between the new owners. Your children may mutually agree to change the arrangement later. However, clarity at the outset can avoid confusion and head off disputes, and your solicitor can incorporate a declaration of trust in the transfer, reflecting your intentions and setting out the basis of ownership.

Alternatively, you could transfer the property to a limited company with your children holding shares reflecting their beneficial interest. There are tax implications and an additional administrative burden, which we can discuss with you.

Transferring property to a minor

If your child is under 18, you cannot transfer property to them directly as legally a minor cannot own land. Instead, you will need to use a trust. The most common arrangement is for two trustees to hold the legal estate on a bare trust on the child’s behalf. The trustees’ names will appear as the registered owners at the Land Registry, but your solicitor should protect the child’s interest by applying for an appropriate restriction. Under this arrangement, the child has the right to become the legal owner, with full power over the property, when they turn 18.

Other arrangements are also possible, for example, if you do not want your child to have full control when they reach 18, or if your child is vulnerable and requires additional safeguards.

When your child becomes your neighbour

Separating a property or adding a development project will also be complex, particularly as this is likely to require planning permission and specialist design input. So, it is easy to overlook the legal basis of ownership, which would be a mistake.

Informal arrangements may work well initially, but a more formal approach avoids problems later. For example, your home should retain adequate rights for access and services over the part being transferred. You may also want to include restrictions on its use, such as preventing further development if your child sells up and moves away. Any prospective purchaser or lender will want reassurance there are no outstanding legal issues. Failing to complete a formal transfer and register it in a timely manner could result in delay, or even scupper future transactions.

Consider the tax implications carefully

Transferring property to your children, or grandchildren, can be a tax efficient way of passing on assets; but it can also be something of a minefield.

It is very important to discuss your plans with your tax advisor alongside your solicitor as early as possible to avoid problems later.

How we can help

Every family is unique, and the suitability of any arrangement will depend on your circumstances and those of your offspring. Discussing your plans with a solicitor who fully understands both the legal aspects and your personal situation can help you make the right choices.

For further information, please contact Christine Blenkinsop or Neil Shearer in the  conveyancing team on 0191 2970011 or email cb@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk or ns@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk

 

Key considerations for buying a home off plan

Does the idea of a brand-new home appeal to you? If so, you are not alone as the last two years have seen a dramatic rise in the number of people buying off plan.  Whether you are looking for your forever home, an investment property, or a holiday hideaway, buying off plan has its own challenges.

Christine Blenkinsop, a Licensed Conveyancer in the conveyancing team with Kidd & Spoor Solicitors explains, ‘As with any property purchase, you should do your homework and consider all the pros and cons. Buying off plan also raises some specific legal issues, so it is important to get advice from the right professionals.’

Here she answers some of your questions.

What exactly is buying off plan?

Buying off plan involves committing to purchase a property you have not seen, usually because the developer has yet to build it. In some cases, the developer will already have completed much of the scheme, including a show home. At the other extreme, the development may exist only on paper, with the anticipated completion date years in the future.

You should always consider any proposal on its merits. In general, a more speculative scheme will be riskier than one nearing completion.

What has made buying off plan so popular?

Government schemes, such as Home Buy which applied only to new build homes, may have fuelled the popularity of buying off plan. However, a sustained period of rising house prices has also helped.

Although a new home usually costs more than a similar older property, buying off plan effectively fixes the price. For example, if you agreed to buy an apartment off plan in 2019, scheduled for completion in 2022, the purchase price would reflect the 2019 value. On average, prices increased by about 15 per cent during this period so your savings could be significant.

However, the converse is also true. If house prices decrease during the period between exchange and completion, you could pay more than if you just waited and bought on the open market. As the property market cools, this becomes more of a risk. To counter this risk, developers often discount their units to attract buyers.

What are the other advantages of buying off plan?

Buying off plan can give you a blank canvas from which to create your new home. You are likely to have a greater say in the décor and fittings. You may even be able to change the design or specification, albeit at extra cost.

Off plan properties often have a high build standard, incorporate modern technology and are energy efficient. Many are in landmark locations, or new developments, often designed with specific markets in mind, for example, second home owners or retirees.

What are the main disadvantages of buying off plan?

Firstly, you cannot see what you are buying. The developer should provide detailed illustrations and information, but there is still some risk. It can be easy to fall for the dream property you see in the glossy brochure, but you need to be confident the developer will finish it to the standard advertised. Unfortunately, insolvency, shortfalls in funding and other contingencies, mean some schemes never complete. Others fall short of expectations.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce this risk, such as checking out the developer’s record. Having the right solicitor on board is also key. They will ensure the contract makes it clear what the developer must deliver, and that the appropriate warranties or insurance are in place.

Even so, there may still be some aspects you had not anticipated. For example, if your property is in an area of wider development, the construction of neighbouring properties may alter the street scene. Unless you are buying the final unit in a scheme, there is also likely to be some disruption while the builder completes the rest of the site.

Secondly, the gap between exchange and completion is longer than on a conventional purchase. Completion can be months or sometimes even years ahead. In addition, you may not be certain of the actual date of completion when you commit to buy, as this may depend upon factors beyond the developer’s control.

How do you finance an off-plan purchase?

The longer gap between exchange and completion also impacts on funding. Many mortgage offers only last six months. If the property takes longer to build, then you will usually need to reapply to your lender. If property prices are decreasing, there is an additional risk as the advance will be based on the latest valuation. You may therefore need alternative funds to complete.

There are some specialist mortgages on the market aimed at off plan purchasers. So, discuss your plans with a financial adviser or mortgage broker early on.

If you do not need a mortgage then you should have more flexibility, but you should still pay careful attention to your finances. The longer gap introduces an additional element of risk. For example, if the developer is not able to complete because they are insolvent. In that case, you will want to ensure you can get your deposit back. So, it is important your solicitor ensures its protection, for example, through a trust or insurance. Treat any request for a deposit of more than 10 per cent cautiously as most insurance policies will only cover this amount.

Is there anything else I need to consider?

Buying off plan is quite different from a conventional purchase. Some aspects are more straightforward. For example, there is usually no chain of linked transactions to worry about. On the other hand, there are additional considerations, and it is important to choose an experienced solicitor who fully understands these.

Buying off plan inevitably involves an element of uncertainty. However, good due diligence and a tightly worded contract can ensure there are no nasty surprises. For example, as your solicitor, we would carefully check the planning permission. This is not only to ensure your property complies with the approved plans, but to consider any conditions and the wider development. As well as being satisfied with the state of your property, you will need to be confident it has adequate access and services without you having to incur additional cost.

Another potential issue is delay. Some overrun is not unusual; however most people do not want to wait indefinitely for completion, especially if the development runs into serious issues. It is prudent, to incorporate a longstop date in the agreement. Then, if your property is not ready by that date, you may terminate the agreement and get your deposit back.

How we can help

You need to consider carefully what is on offer, as well as market trends and your own needs and aspirations.

Our conveyancing team is well versed in all types of property acquisition and we understand what makes each transaction unique.

For further information, please contact Christine Blenkinsop or Neil Shearer in the conveyancing team on 0191 2970011 or email cb@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk or  ns@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk

 

Can a fraudster really steal a house?

A solid building, made of bricks and mortar, seems an unlikely target for thieves. For most of us our homes evoke a powerful sense of security; ‘safe as houses’ as the old saying goes. But the facts tell a different story, as there has been an exponential growth in property fraud which now accounts for 70 per cent of all frauds.

‘Media reports of a Luton vicar discovering his locks changed and a stranger in his home, is an extreme example,’ says Christine Blenkinsop, a Licensed Conveyancer in the conveyancing team with Kidd & Spoor Solicitors. ‘However, there is no room for complacency and there is a lot that you and your solicitor can do to prevent you becoming a victim of property fraud.’

What happened in Luton

Reverend Mike Hall made the headlines when a fraudster targeted his modest terraced house in Luton. Working away from home, he was surprised when his neighbours called to say there was someone in his house. Hurrying back, he was even more surprised to find his home stripped of furniture and a builder mid-renovation. When challenged, the builder called the new owner who claimed to have bought the property in good faith. Worse, Land Registry records confirmed the change in ownership and the police initially refused to get involved, saying it was a ‘civil matter’.

Sadly, this was a bad case of a property fraud where the fraudster had used the Reverend’s driving licence and bank details to impersonate him and had purported to sell his home.

The buyer, and their conveyancer, believing they were dealing with the real owner of the property, accepted a fake transfer which moved the sale proceeds to the fraudster’s account. The fraudster then applied successfully to the Land Registry to register the new buyer in place of Reverend Hall.

With registered land, entry in the register is definitive proof of ownership. While the Land Registry may conduct its own investigations, it also relies upon checks by conveyancers. Unfortunately, the Land Registry had already registered the buyer in the register when it discovered the transfer was fake. The rules about correcting the register are complex. In general, the Land Registry will not alter the register if that means displacing an innocent owner who is in occupation. Instead, it compensates the wronged party.

How you, as a homeowner, can avoid becoming a victim

This guarantee of title means victims, like Reverend Hall, have some financial protection. However, it does not compensate for the stress and heartache caused by property fraud and the tortuous process of sorting things out.

So, it is important to reduce the risk of becoming a victim.

  • First, consider signing up to the Land Registry’s free property monitoring service. This sends you an alert when the Land Registry receives certain applications relating to your nominated property, for example, a transfer to register a new owner or a charge. It will not block the application, but it gives you the opportunity to take the appropriate action quickly. For example, if you suspect a fraudulent transfer, you should contact your solicitor or the Land Registry straightaway. Title fraud is a crime, although it may need specialist help to identify and address.
  • Second, keep your records up to date. When the Land Registry enters you as owner in the register, it will also record your address for service. This is where it will send any notices or correspondence, so make sure yours is correct, especially if you are not living at the property. There is a special form for this, COG1, and you must also provide evidence of your identity. You may give up to three addresses, including an email address. Fraudsters rely on their activities going undetected, so do not make this easy for them.
  • Thirdly, you, or your solicitor, can apply to the Land Registry for the entry of a restriction against your title. This will prevent the registration of a new owner unless they first comply with the terms of the restriction. A restriction may be appropriate where there is an additional risk of fraud, for example, because you do not live at the property yourself. The restriction typically requires a conveyancer to certify they are satisfied the person executing a transfer is the same person registered as its owner. Although still dependent on a conveyancer conducting the right identity checks, this adds an additional layer of protection.

You can find more tips on how to protect your property in a guide issued jointly by the Fraud Advisory Panel, the Land Registry and the Law Society.

Take extra care when buying or selling your home

Moving house can be both exciting and stressful, and it can be easy to let your guard down. However, always try to stay vigilant. Conveyancing fraud is on the rise. It may take many forms, and sadly you may be particularly vulnerable when buying or selling your home, due to the large sums of money at stake.

As in Reverend Hall’s case, a fraudster may impersonate the real owner, or pretend to be a conveyancer or claim they work for a genuine law firm. They may then dupe home buyers, conveyancers, or mortgage lenders, into transferring funds into fake accounts. Cyber criminals may even intercept emails, sending bogus requests for money, and exploiting insecure wifi systems.

There are simple ways to reduce these risks. For example, check emails carefully, paying particular attention to any requests to transfer money, or changes to what you agreed previously. If you feel something is not right, or are just not sure about something, call your conveyancer. Telephone them on a number you trust and confirm the position personally. In many cases, people could have thwarted a fraud if they had just picked up the phone or checked things in person.

Our solicitors have robust systems in place to protect you. We will explain these to you and what to be aware of, for example by providing bank details in a secure format. Many safeguards are technology based, for example, encrypted email and online identity verification.

How we can help

As a firm, we believe it is just as important to give you our close personal attention. Diligence and approachability, as well as our technical expertise, are the best ways to keep your transaction safe and on track.

For further information, or to talk about how we can help you move home safely, please contact Christine Blenkinsop or Neil Shearer in the conveyancing team on 0191 2970011 or email cb@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk or ns@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk.