For a claimant embroiled in legal proceedings, a defendant’s property is often the only asset available with which to enforce against.
Not every defendant will have money to settle with. Not every defendant will offer an undertaking not to dissipate his assets or to notify you of any intention to deal with his assets mid proceedings. Between proceedings and obtaining a judgement and when dealing with a particularly slippery defendant, that only asset can be at risk.
It is not unknown for a defendant to:
- attempt to sell/transfer/gift the property, often to an associate
- create a fictitious loan arrangement secured by way of charge
- obtain (another) mortgage on his property.
A freezing injunction is not always the most available means of protecting that asset. You may have a whiff of a risk of dissipation, but no proper evidence of that real risk. Often, a claimant in proceedings will find out, perhaps sometime after the event, that a defendant has dealt with the asset. What will follow next is a flurry of activity – and expense – to try and retrieve that asset via the courts. Timing is therefore crucial.
What can assist is a monitoring service offered by the Land Registry called the Property Alert Service. Although available since 2014, it is relatively unknown. In our experience, it can be an extremely efficient monitoring tool.
All you need is to set yourself up with an account. You can then enter the address of the property you wish to monitor. Thereafter the Land Registry will notify you by email each time there is any activity on the property. This could be a request for an Official Copy or an application to alter the registration details of the property, e.g. by way of entry of a charge.
Advantages of the Land Registry’s Property Alert service are:
- it is completely free
- it is very simple to set up an online account you can monitor up to 10 property addresses simultaneously (so long as they are in England & Wales and already registered with the Land Registry)
- the legal owner will not know you are monitoring his property/ies
The limit of 10 properties can be a disadvantage if you have a number of defendants with numerous properties, all of which you will want to monitor. In that case, presumably, you could set up other accounts in the names of other members of your team.
It is important to note that the service does not automatically stop or prevent any activity on that property. What it does do is alert you to the potentially suspicious activity. This allows you time to seek advice on what options are available to you to preserve the asset in question.
And as any experienced bird will tell you, being early could prevent you becoming an unsecured judgment creditor.
To set up your Property Alert go to https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/
If you have any queries on this article, please contact Salina Brindle (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Frances Coulson (email@example.com) or, for all property matters, Daniel Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This is intended for general information only and should not be considered as giving advice in relation to any individual case nor be taken as applying to any particular case. No liability is accepted for any such use of the information contained in this e-alert. Should you wish to instruct us on any detailed matter, please contact Graham McPhie or Frances Coulson.