Identity Checks, Property Fraud & Landlords
Buildings and land are usually the most valuable assets you own. They can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and can therefore be attractive targets for fraudsters.
It is very important that property owners do what they can to help prevent fraud and to protect their ownership in the same way that they protect other things they own.
If you own property you can be the victim of property fraud, but there are some situations where this is more likely:
- Where a relationship breaks down
- Where a property is empty
- Where a property is let out
- Where the owner is abroad or absent
- Where the owner is infirm or in a home
What can I do to Prevent Property Fraud?
Register your title to your property at the Land Registry and make sure your address for service is up-to-date. Consider having more than one address for service and also, if you feel particularly at risk put a restriction on your title.
As a landlord you could be most at risk if you have lived in the property you are letting out and have mail going to that address. Never leave any personal documents at the address and carry out thorough identity, credit and reference checks on tenants.
It is your responsibility to do identity checks with sight of original documents – face-to-face checks with original documents. Although we can confirm identities as far as evidence and paperwork presented to us is concerned, we are not in a position to do this with original documents - face to face.
In addition to doing credit checks and referencing, landlords and letting agents should always satisfy themselves of the true identity of tenant applicants by carrying out additional identity checks. You should do this before you apply for a credit check. This is because people who know there are issues with their records can sometimes present a false identity for your check.
From 1st February 2016 all new tenants, sub-tenants and lodgers in England must be given Right-to-Rent (Immigration) Checks to determine their “right-to-rent” or “right-to-reside” in the country, BEFORE they can be given a tenancy. Landlords or letting agents must do the checks – letting agents where the landlord has an appropriate written agreement with the agent. To avoid discrimination and being in breach of the Equality Act 2010, EVERYONE must be processed in the same way.
The responsibility for doing this and the penalty for not complying (up to £3,000 per tenant) lies with the landlord. If the landlord decides to delegate the responsibility to a letting agent, then they need a written agreement in place with the agent first. The same goes where tenants are to sub-let with a landlord’s permission. The agreement must make it clear the agent or tenant is taking full responsibility for completing the immigration checks.
In most cases the checks will be simple and straightforward, involving face-to-face verification of a passport or similar document and taking and dating a good copy. This copy will then normally be verified against other information when credit checks and referencing are carried out.
Personal documents such as driver's licenses, passports, and bank statements are essential. Also, it’s a good idea to take a phone photo “mug shot” of the applicant for your own records.
Request a photocopy of at least one item with a photograph.
To verify addresses you should request sight of a utility bill in the tenant's name. Make sure you have previous addresses for at least 3 years as CCJs are recorded at the address at the time of judgment.
Documents you can use to Verify Identity & Residency
- Current Full UK Driving License (photo)
- Birth Certificate or Marriage Certificate
- National Insurance Card or document confirming NI number
- Benefit Book (or original letter confirming benefits)
- Self-employed tax exemption certificate – with photo
- Recent Inland Revenue tax notification
Evidence of Residency Documents
2 required, sight of originals or certified copies – all letters to show current address in full
- Bank or Building Society Statements (not older than 6 months)
- Local Authority Council Tax bill (current year)
- Utility bill (not older than 3 months) - not a mobile phone bill
- Mortgage Statement (most recent)
- Solicitor’s letter (not older than 6 months)
- Current Tenancy Agreement
- Letter from current landlord
- Benefit Book or letter from Benefits Agency (if not used above)
UK & Non UK Residents
Proof of personal identification (2 pieces) and evidence of current address (2 pieces) – 4 pieces in total - the same documents will not cover both.
For a UK national you can accept certified copies by: A UK lawyer, banker, authorised financial intermediary, MCCB regulated mortgage intermediary, chartered accountant, teacher, doctor, minister of religion, post master/sub post master.
For a non UK national you can accept certified copies of documents from: an embassy, consulate or high commission of the country of issue, a senior official of a UK employer, lawyer or attorney.
Certified Copies should be signed “original seen” and dated with full printed name, title/position, telephone or e-mail contact and address of certifier.
Some Useful Fraud Prevention Links
- CIFAS - The UK's Fraud Prevention Service
- Land Registry Guide 17 - Safeguard Against Property Fraud
- Right to rent immigration checks: Landlords' code of practice
- Identification Certificate
Some Useful Documents
See our User Guide here
Our Advice on Tenant Screening, a 20 point Checklist here