PROPERTY FRAUD: I DON’T NEED A SOLICITOR – OR DO I?
With a recent Stamp Duty land tax holiday, sellers have enjoyed a buoyant market. However, the market is open to exploitation. The BBC recently reported on a homeowner who nearly lost her home to fraud. The article ‘Property Fraud: My fake sister tried to steal my home’ reported on the 1st December 2020 laid clear how important it is to have a valid Financial and Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) that has been officially set up by a legal professional
The homeowner had left her leased home vacant whilst she cared for her ailing mother. It was only when her landlord contacted her about the proposed sale that she realised something was wrong. A woman known as ‘Julie’ had completed an LPA on her behalf. Recent changes at the Office of the Public Guardian means this can be completed online without anyone identifying the person signing or whether they understand the significance of the LPA – a legal document or deed. ‘Julie’ took full advantage of this, together with some forged identity documents and registered the LPA.
Thankfully, the solicitors that ‘Julie’ instructed to sell the property undertook diligent checks which ‘Julie’ was unable to answer. Without the legal professionals being involved and trusting their instincts the homeowner could have lost her home. The LPA was thoroughly investigated and noted to be perfectly valid on its face – until solicitors delved deeper. The Office of the Public Guardian do not check the identity of the donor (person making the LPA) or attorneys and this is where the danger lies for the individual.
A legal professional will review the LPA with a client fully, making sure that they understand both the document and its effect once signed on their finances. The Office of the Public Guardian will write to the person registering the LPA and the attorneys but not the donor automatically. At CGM Solicitors we believe that it is vital the client understands the process and is updated at all stages. Overall, if there are any problems or concerns we are available to assist. The individual donor is at the heart of the whole LPA process and an unregulated website is wholly open to abuse and fraud. Dominic Raab was contacted for comment on this exact point.
You can contact the Office of the Public Guardian for free on 0300 456 0300 to enquire about any existing and registered LPA in your name. They can also be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any concerns, we are offering a free LPA clinic for you to check your existing LPA or to discuss a new one.
Lindsay Taylor is an Associate Solicitor based at our Covid-secure Hythe Office. For your conveyancing and private client needs you can contact CGM Solicitors on 02380 842765 for an appointment.