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HouseSOLD Robbery!!

Owner left out in the cold.

Estate agents are well aware of the legal duty they have to know who they are dealing with in their business transactions. Likewise, solicitors and banks are under similar obligations to make stringent checks on the bona fides of customers and clients. Yet some still slip through the net…

Yesterday the BBC reported on the case of a man returning to his house only to find it had been sold without his knowledge and stripped of all its furnishings. According to the report, by the BBC Radio 4 You and Yours programme,  Mike Hall arrived at his property in Luton to find building work under way and a new owner in possession who said he had bought the house.

The BBC investigation has found Hall’s identity had been stolen and used to sell the house and bank the proceeds. Mr Hall, who was away last August, working in north Wales, said he received a call from his neighbours saying that someone was in the house and all the lights were on. He drove to the property the next morning.

“I went to the front door, tried my key in the front door, it didn’t work and a man opened the front door to me,” he told the programme. “I pushed him to one side and got in the property. I really didn’t know what he was doing there.”

The man said he was doing building work. Hall told him, “I haven’t sold the house. This is still my property.” Mr Hall phoned the police, but the builder left and returned with the new owner’s father, who said he had bought the terraced house in July, adding: “It is now my property. You are now trespassing. Get out.”

Mr Hall said: “We then tried to access the Land Registry documentation online to find out whose name appeared… and it is, in fact, … this man’s name.” At that point the police said, ‘Well, there’s nothing further we can do here. This is a civil matter; you need to leave the house and contact your solicitors.'”

The BBC put Mr Hall in touch with Bedfordshire Police’s fraud squad, which has begun an investigation. You and Yours obtained the driving licence used to impersonate Mr Hall, details of a bank account set up in his name to receive the proceeds of the sale, and phone recordings of the house being stolen. Once the house was sold to the new owner for £131,000 by the person impersonating Mr Hall, they legally owned it.

The solicitors involved in the property transaction said there was an ongoing police investigation and that it was inappropriate to comment further. “We will continue to co-operate with the police, and comply with our professional obligations,” said the firm, which the BBC declined not to name.

By Chris Willey

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