Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Title deed fraud: Can your title be transferred without your consent?

Did you know you could have your entire house or Land stolen from you? Sure, no one is going to physically walk away with it—but they could become the legal owners of the property if they commit real estate title fraud.

Simply put, real estate title fraud occurs when someone transfers the ownership of your property from you—the rightful owner—to himself or herself without your knowledge or consent. This means they put the deed—the piece of paper that proves you own the property—in their own name.

In order to do this, the criminal committing title theft forges your signature on the deed so it looks like you sold the property. He or she then signs the document as the grantee—or the new homeowner—and files the forged deed with the county recorder to make it look official.

If no one catches on to the deed fraud, the criminal looks like the new property owner on the Ministry of Lands records. And that means you no longer have legal ownership of the property—until you find out and fix the property title fraud.

When you’re no longer the owner of your property on paper, you lose certain important benefits—like being able to sell your home or use it as collateral for loans.

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This is because the person who committed real estate title fraud might try to sell the property or rent it out to other people. If he or she somehow succeeds at this and the supposed new owners or renters show up to move in, you now have to prove that the property is still yours.

While you’ll likely be able to prove your claim, you will have to show that fraud occurred, which means you’ll need to hire a lawyer and go to court. This can be time consuming and costly—and you shouldn’t have to spend your time and money proving your house or land belongs to you!

Even if the real estate title fraud scheme doesn’t make it very far—and you find out about it before the criminal tries to sell your property—you could still face consequences. After all, title fraud is essentially identity theft. Someone is out there forging your signature and pretending you agreed to major legal decisions that you didn’t even know about.

This means that someone likely knows your personal information and could be planning on using it or applying for loans using your property as collateral. If they don’t pay on the loans they take out against your property, you could end up in even more issues.

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Clearly, real estate title fraud is not something to take lightly or ignore. Even if you don’t lose your property, you could find yourself in debt or in trouble with creditors and even law enforcement, depending on what criminals do with your information. That’s why it’s important to know about how real estate title fraud happens and how to avoid it.

How to Prevent Title Deed fraud and theft

Maybe you haven’t noticed any evidence of real estate title fraud, which is great. But that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Anyone can become a victim of title fraud, especially people who own several properties. But you can protect yourself with some preventive measures.

It is important to:

  • Place a caveat on your property, especially for people away from the property such as the diaspora clients. It is not full proof guarantee, but makes it difficult for people to commit fraud on your property.
  • Securely store your documents such as the title deeds, ID cards and KRA Pin Certificate.
  • Never ever sign docs you have not read. You can appoint a lawyer if you do not understand legal jargon to do it on your behalf since you could be transferring your property to somebody else without you knowing.
  • Immediately report lost documents such as the KRA Pin, ID and others, as it gives you recourse in case of fraud.

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