Yes, we have indeed been the recipients of an attempted dupe from somebody who instructed us to sell a property – after showing us around it themselves, no less – but who turns out not to be the owner, nor even be known to the people who are.
We discovered the news after receiving an ‘interesting’ phone call from lawyers acting for an owner who had discovered our photographers inside their property. What makes it even more interesting is that the building where all this happened has a concierge who not only gave the the keys to the person pretending to be the owner when showing us round, but also on a second occasion to our photographers. So it’s possible – although certainly not proven – that the imposter had an accomplice.
To anyone contemplating a similar move, we thought it might be nice to save you some time and to illuminate you on some procedural matters that prevent you simply selling any property you fancy and receiving the money from the sale.
1) Estate agents are now required to see proof of ownership and proof of identity (i.e. your passport) before commencing the marketing of a property. If you can’t show us that, we can’t market the property.
2) Conveyancers are also required to see proof of ownership and proof of identity in order to act for the owner in a sale. So your name will need to be on the title deeds at the land registry in order for the conveyancer to proceed. And if you say you are acting on the owner’s behalf, your conveyancer will require proof of power of attorney, alongside proof of identity of the actual owner. The conveyancer acting for the buyer will also want to see that.
3) You will need to look like the person on the passport. Better still, to be that person.
4) You will need to supply a bank account for the money to be transferred to and banks also require proof of identity to open accounts. You can’t just go into the solicitor’s office on completion with a couple of large suitcases and fill them with hard cash.
5) If your plan is to have the money paid into another person’s account, the conveyancer will also need proof of identity for that person in order to comply with money laundering regulations.
So you see, it is not like nicking someone’s shoes and selling them on eBay. And you will get found out.