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The Trojan Horse in Property Dealings: Unveiling the Dangers of Property Fraud

For most people, buying a property is likely to be the single most important investment that you will make during your lifetime. It needs to be protected.

The scale of fraud committed in the UK rose to £2.3bn in 2023, with illicit activities relating to the sale, purchase or mortgage of properties accounting for 71% of all fraud. In fact, the UK Land Registry has received over double the number of fraud claims that they have prevented.

These damming statistics show that fraudsters are becoming increasingly convincing and more successful in their attempts to deprive homeowners of their property.

The ever-increasing refinement of technology means that these scams can be unpredictable and occur in a variety of ways. This article will delve into the main types of property fraud and shed some light on how you can protect your investment from potential threats.

Title Fraud

Title fraud occurs when a scammer gathers sufficient information about a property owner allowing them to steal their identity. Using this information, they then are able to sell the property and make off with the funds or may even apply for loans by using the property as collateral.

Those most at risk from being the victims of title fraud are the people who own properties that are currently vacant such as holiday homes which are uninhabited for a majority of the year, or properties that are unregistered.

Vacant properties are a haven for fraudsters as the chance of a homeowner discovering any illicit activity is severely reduced due to the property not being their main residence. Recent targets have been the elderly who may have gone into a care home, leaving their home vacant.

How can you protect yourself?

There are multiple ways a prudent homeowner can protect themselves against title fraud. If your property is unregistered, then contact a solicitor who will begin the registration process and ensure that your name is on the title deeds thus legally registering you as the owner of the property.

If your property is already registered, then you can download an official copy of the Register of Title at a cost of only £3 from the Land Registry. The Register will state who the true owner of the property is and will inform you if there are any mistakes or incorrect information regarding your property. If there are mistakes, then you must contact the Land Registry so that they may rectify the issue.

All homeowners are actively being encouraged to sign up with the Land Registry Property Alert Service which will alert you immediately if there are any official searches or applications submitted against your property. If you receive an alert that you have no knowledge of or did not authorise, then you can immediately address this to prevent any fraud from occurring.

While the above protections are a good start, the most secure method to protect your property is to place a restriction on the Register of Title. A restriction blocks the Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage of your property without the certified consent of a solicitor, such consent can only be provided on your behalf. The fee for registering a restriction is £40 and must be done via post. A small price to pay for extra safeguards on your home.

Cyber Fraud

Cyber Fraud differs from title fraud as here, the wrongdoer impersonates the conveyancer dealing with the property rather than the homeowner. Fraudsters are utilising the fast-growing technology at their disposal to create fake emails, letters and websites that seem perfectly legitimate and look as professional as the real deal.

The authenticity of these fraudulent documents can convince unsuspecting buyers to part with their money thinking that they are purchasing a new home only for the funds to disappear and never be seen again. Fraudsters may create a false conveyancing firm, or they may intercept email communications between a genuine conveyancer and buyer and request that the buyer transfer the purchase funds directly to a new bank account.

How can you protect yourself?

At the beginning of the property transaction, it is essential that you speak to your solicitor in person or on the phone. At that point it would be pragmatic to confirm each other’s bank details. At a later date, if you receive instructions from your solicitor that they have changed their details, this may be a fraudulent attempt by a wrongdoer to exploit payment from you. If this occurs, contact your solicitor using the phone number you have previously used to communicate. Ensure you speak to the same person you normally deal with and confirm if they really have changed their details.

Any time you are required to transfer sums to the solicitor, always call and double or even triple check. The risk of fraud is high so solicitors are understanding of the lengths one may go to protect themselves. A quick phone call to confirm is a small step to take to mitigate potential fraud.

Another method of protection is to set strong unique passwords for your email account to make it much safer. This should be coupled with two-factor authentication, thus guaranteeing the best possible security.

Lender Fraud

Lender fraud entails the impersonation of a mortgage lender, such as a bank or building society. Fraudsters will offer a homeowner the opportunity to renegotiate mortgage terms that are more favourable to the buyer. In return the false lender will demand an upfront payment that is lower than the amount still to be paid on the mortgage, enticing owners to comply thinking that they are getting a great deal. Consequently, the false lender vanishes with the payment and the terms of the mortgage stay as is. All documents and correspondence from the fraudster will look and feel completely legitimate, giving homeowners a false sense of security. Those who are in financial distress are most at risk of being targeted and suffering this type of property fraud.

How can you protect yourself?

The majority of lenders are companies, and all will be registered with the Registrar of Companies. If you receive communications from someone claiming to be a lender, check the Registrar to verify their authenticity. There is a link on the Registrar that will take you to the lender’s legitimate website. From there, you can find their customer support contact phone number and speak to someone to confirm if the communication your received were genuine, or the work of a scammer.

Lastly, remember that the most important form of protection is for you to always remain vigilant. If something seems suspicious, it is worth taking the time to verify it. If you are offered something that seems too good to be true, take action to confirm the source of the offer. Potential threats can arise from all angles and fraudsters are always innovating their methods of attack. Your property will often be your most valuable and treasured asset. Ensure that it receives the protection and attention that it deserves.


If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or need general advice about property related matters, please do not hesitate to contact our Property Department  on 020 7625 6003 or Gary Green (Head of Property) by email at


From “I Do” to “Unfollow”: How Mobile Phones and Social Media May Affect Your Divorce

The widespread availability of mobile phones has undeniably changed the way in which we communicate.

With mobile phones at our fingertips, communication has become instant and increasingly reactive. Likewise, social media platforms now enable us to easily share a substantial portion of our day with a wide audience.

Naturally, there is concern that our use of technology results in a permanent, and often public, record of our lives.

Parties are increasingly producing evidence obtained from mobile phones to use against their spouses in court proceedings. Social media platforms are being scoured for relevant posts to either prove or disprove a position. Meanwhile, instant messaging apps are being used to lure parties into an agreement or statement, which they can later be held to.

The usage of mobile phones and social media can also be a source of hostility for the parties involved.

This has placed more of a spotlight on the use of mobile phones in divorce proceedings. Our Family team examines these issues in more detail below:

It is all about the evidence

Evidence gathered from mobile phones and social media is often used during the financial remedy proceedings on divorce. Whilst there is no requirement for spouses to settle their finances upon divorce, it is recommended that parties do so. This is to avoid any future claims which may arise from postponing a financial settlement.

In financial remedy applications, parties are required to provide a full and frank disclosure of their financial resources so the court can determine the appropriate financial provision. However, any division of wealth will be based on the assets which have been disclosed and much is dependent upon the parties to be truthful about the extent of their finances. Consequently, parties are frequently using social media to prove, or disprove, their spouse’s financial position, particularly where there are allegations of non-disclosed assets and lavish spending.

When making a decision, the court, along with other factors, will also look at the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Therefore, social media posts evidencing expensive clothing, restaurants and holidays are likely to be significant in any analysis.

These considerations maintain relevance where there are children of the marriage. When determining the appropriate child arrangements order, the court will similarly consider prior standard of living, financial needs and the income, financial and property assets of both parents. The same evidence may be relevant.

Furthermore, in cases where there are high income levels, the court has jurisdiction to order periodical payments which “top up” any child support payments already being received via the Child Maintenance Service or the Child Support Agency. To qualify for this order, the paying partner must earn more than £3,000 per week for the Child Support Agency, or a net income of £104,000 per annum in cases concerning the Child Maintenance Service. It is therefore important to demonstrate that spending exceeds this criteria and, where there has not been a full and frank disclosure, social media and other communications disproving the disclosure may help.

 Mobile Phones and Well-being

Divorce is a significant event in anyone’s life. Well-being and mental health throughout the process is paramount. Unfortunately, the prevalence of mobile phones can cause parties great difficulties, particularly if you have been the victim of abuse.

It is no wonder, therefore, that social media can cause difficulties post-marriage in the same way that it can be a catalyst for arguments during. Viewing daily updates of your spouse’s life on social media may create unhappy emotions of resentment, anger or jealousy, whilst the ease of digital messaging services can spark unkind communications. It can also encourage people from outside the marriage to offer unwelcome opinions, affecting your self-esteem and hindering a fresh start. It can be understandably hard to escape this.

 Using Mobile Phones Responsibly

Mobile phones can be both a hinderance and a help in divorce proceedings. It is therefore important to use your phone, and social media contained within it, responsibly and cautiously throughout the separation process.

Useful tips:

  • Limiting Usage – This can help you heal from the separation, allowing for time apart and a cleaner break. It may also be suitable to take a short break from posting frequently on social media sites, if you previously did so. This can protect you from general hostility and disagreements.
  • Avoid Negative Posts or Conversations – Remember, there is permanence to digital communications. It may harm your case or hurt your spouse.
  • Privacy Settings – Ensure your accounts are well protected if your spouse had access to them previously.
  • Seek Legal Advice – We can offer you advice on navigating social media and communication on your device, helping you focus on your future post-separation.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or need advice about a divorce or civil partnership separation, please do not hesitate to contact our Family & Private Wealth Department on 020 7625 6003 or Priya Dhokia (Head of Family & Private Wealth) by email at


Capital Gains Tax (CGT) for couples divorcing or ending civil partnership

The Old Law on CGT Relief

The time for reform on Capital Gains Tax (CGT) relief for divorcing spouses and separating civil partners is long overdue. The previous law allowed couples to dispose of assets on a “no gain or no loss” basis. However, this was only available in relation to any disposals in the remainder of the tax year in which the separation happens. This has left many couples in a race against time to dispose of their assets before the tax year is up in order to benefit from CGT relief. An often near impossible task for many couples who find themselves in lengthily financial settlement negotiations when ending their marriage or civil partnership. Even in the most amicable negotiations parties are reliant on information and documentation from third parties, this often causes further delays to the negotiation process. In addition, couples were ultimately reliant upon the Courts to finalise their financial Consent or Remedy Orders and consequently do not have much control over the timeline.

The New CGT Rules

On 06 April 2023 new legislation was introduced which has changed the CGT rules for divorcing spouses and separating civil partners.  Couples can now benefit from the following changes to CGT rules.

  • “No gain, no loss” CGT relief for up to three years from the end of the tax year in which they separated when disposing of assets.
  • Transfers between parties which are part of a formal divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership agreement will attract “no gain, no loss” CGT relief for an unlimited time.
  • The partner who retains an interest in the former matrimonial home may claim Principle Private Residence Relief upon the sale of the property.
  • Lastly, individuals who have transferred their interest in the former matrimonial home to their ex-spouse or civil partner and are entitled to receive a percentage of the proceeds when that home is eventually sold will benefit from being able to apply the same tax treatment on the receipt of those proceeds that applied when they transferred their original interest in the home to their ex-spouse or civil partner.

The Impact of these Changes

These changes to legislation provide a fairer way for spouses and civil partners to distribute and dispose of their assets upon separation. Individuals will now have the time to fully consider their financial positions without having to rush into decisions to avoid high CGT liabilities, particularly in situations where parties have complicated financial affairs. In addition, we can only hope that this outcome will relieve some of the pressures that many individuals may experience at the time of divorce or dissolution.


If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or need advice about a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, please do not hesitate to contact our Family Department on 020 7625 6003 or Priya Dhokia (Head of Family & Private Wealth) by email at

Priya Dhokia offers insight and advice on: recruiting and retaining talent and how you can attract the right people

Priya Dhokia, Head of Family & Private Wealth at Freedman Green Dhokia provides advice and insight to Law Society members on how to recruit and retain talent so firms have the right people on board.

Priya sits on The Law Society’s Small Firms Advisory Committee. She regularly uses her knowledge and expertise to deliver support for the sector.

You can read the full article here:

Recruiting and retaining talent: how to attract the right people | The Law Society


Death ends everything – including Divorce!

Last week the Supreme Court held that a Wife could not continue her financial claims against her Husband because he died whilst they were having a divorce dispute. The Wife’s claims for financial relief on divorce were therefore rejected.

The parties in the case concerned were Nafisa Hasan (Wife) and Mahmud Ul Hasan (Husband) – Unger & Anor v Ul-Hasan (deceased) & Anor [2023] UKSC 22 (28 June 2023).

There were disclosed assets in excess of £7m.

Case Timeline

1981                    Parties marry

2006                    Parties separate

2012                    Parties divorce in Pakistan

August 2017       Wife applies to the Family Division of the High Court for financial relief following an overseas divorce

2019                    Court proceedings delayed due to the pandemic

Jan 2021             Husband dies in Dubai, weeks before a hearing

July 2021            Wife’s application is refused

October 2022      Five High Court judges consider case and rule against the Wife

June 2023           Supreme Court hears the case and rejects the Wife’s claims

Upon the Husband’s death, the Wife applied for permission to pursue her claim after his death, against his estate, as a significant wealth had been accumulated during the marriage. The question considered by the court was whether her matrimonial claim could survive the death of the Husband.

The Wife’s application was refused based on the existing law and a previous decision made in 1957, which states that a financial claim during a marriage or after divorce expires with the death of the respondent. But the judge thought that previous decision ought to be challenged and granted the Wife permission to go the Supreme Court and appeal the decision. But the Supreme Court also rejected the Wife’s claim.

When making a financial order on divorce, the court’s primary concern is to look at each party’s needs to assess what the appropriate financial split might be. Where a party has died, they clearly have no future needs. Consequently, this would impact the division on divorce. But it all very much depends on when the death has occurred. In some cases, where there is a death after a financial order has been made, it can lead to the order being set aside based on the change in parties’ circumstances.

However, in this case, the death occurred before a financial order was made. Once a party has died, it is not possible to proceed with the divorce and consequently any financial claims arising from it.

If the deceased dies domiciled in England and Wales then the surviving spouse can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family Dependants) Act 1975. The problem in Nafisa Hasan’s case was that her former Husband was domiciled abroad.

To complicate matters, Nafisa Hasan, also died during the proceedings before a financial order was made and was prevented from continuing her claim. Therefore she was not able to receive her entitlement due from the marriage and leave it to her estate in accordance with her wishes. Her entitlement would have been distributed to the beneficiaries of her former Husband’s estate instead.

This case highlights the implications for international clients where spouses or former spouses are domiciled abroad.

It also highlights the need to consider what would happen in circumstances where a party dies before a financial order is made, particularly as the Office for National Statistics reports that the rate of divorce for older couples is on the rise.

This case has led to calls for legal reform, but until then, it is safe to say that death really does end everything!


If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or need advice about a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, please do not hesitate to contact our Family Department on 020 7625 6003 or Priya Dhokia (Head of Family & Private Wealth) by email at

Appointment of Priya Dhokia to the Law Society’s Small Firms Advisory Committee

We are pleased to announce that Priya Dhokia has been appointed to the Law Society’s Small Firms Advisory Committee.

Here is what Priya had to say:

Having been a Partner at Freedman Green Dhokia for over 11 years, I look forward to providing my knowledge and expertise to assist the Law Society in setting their agenda to deliver support for small firms.

This is an exciting opportunity to work with my fellow committee members, all of whom are as enthusiastic as I am: Jennifer DougalEmma Egerton-JonesPriya KrishnanParvien A., Sally Azarmi, John Morelandnazmin choudhury, Anthony Earl, Donna GoodsellShazia Khan, Nicholas Woolf, Marcus Hayes MBE, and Kezia Evans

Together we will provide strategic advice and practice insights for the benefit of the legal community.

If you work in a small firm, please do feel free to reach out to me to discuss any issues relating to our sector.”

You can find out more about the work that the Committee does here:

Small Firms Advisory Committee

No-Fault Divorce is finally here!

On 06 April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, came into force. This has brought about the biggest reform of divorce laws, in England and Wales, in half a century. Couples looking to separate are no longer required to lay blame on one another to prove the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. The new law sets the stage for a more amicable divorce process between couples.

Previously, the Applicant (or then Petitioner) would have been required to prove that there had been irretrievable breakdown of their marriage based on at least one of five facts, being (1) adultery (2) unreasonable behaviour, (3), desertion for two years or  more, (4) separation for two years or more with the other party’s consent or (5) separation for five years or more. This would often polarise the parties’ positions before proceedings had even started, giving rise to unnecessary conflict.

Under the new no-fault divorce procedure, the applicant must believe that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and they are simply required to sign a statement confirming this.

Anyone applying for a divorce or to end their civil partnership will be able to either apply individually (sole applications) or jointly (joint applications).

What Does this Mean for Couples Looking to Apply for Divorce?

The Application

Sole applications can be made online via the HMCTS digital service or by lodging a paper application at court. If the applicant has legal representation their solicitor must lodge their application through the online service. The court fee payable is £593.

A sole application for divorce cannot be changed to a joint application at a later stage. Therefore, applicants will need to decide this at the outset.

Once the sole application is made the court will serve it on the Respondent. The Respondent is required to acknowledge receipt of the Application within 14 working days of receiving the Application, by completing and sending back an ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ form to the Court.  This will then be sent to the Applicant.

After 20 weeks the Applicant can apply for a Conditional Order. The Court will then notify the other side if the Conditional Order has been made.

Once the Conditional Order has been made, the Applicant must wait a period of 6 weeks and one day before becoming entitled to give notice for the Conditional Order to be made Final.  That usually involves filling out a simple form and sending it to the Court. The Final Order follows within a few days.  You will not be divorced until the Final Order has been made.

In a joint application the procedure is mostly the same as a sole application. However, both parties to the marriage are essentially joint applicants. The applicants will be known as “Applicant one” and “Applicant two”, rather than the Applicant and the Respondent.

Joint applicants can change from a joint application to a sole application after the application has been submitted. However, this can only happen at the conditional and final order stage.

Responding to a divorce application

If your spouse has made a sole application for divorce, the court will send you (as the respondent) a copy of the application by email with a follow-up letter from the court with details of how to access the application. This letter will contain the divorce application, the Notice of Proceedings and the Acknowledgement of Service form.

You should receive the application within 28 days of it being issued by the court, unless the Applicant has permission to serve you later than this.

You will need to fill out and return the Acknowledgement of Service form to the court, within 14 days of receipt of the application. Your solicitor can complete this on your behalf and then file it at court.

We recommend that you seek legal advice prior to responding to any divorce application.

Disputing a Divorce

You can only dispute a divorce or dissolution in specific circumstances. The Respondent cannot dispute that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Divorce and dissolution applications can only be disputed because:

  • the Respondent disputes the jurisdiction of the Court in England and Wales;
  • the Respondent disputes the validity of the marriage or civil partnership (for example, if the parties have not entered into a legally valid marriage);
  • the marriage or civil partnership has already been legally ended;
  • it will also be possible for the Respondent to challenge proceedings for reasons such as fraud and procedural compliance (for example, the marriage was not formed in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations)

The 20 week period

After the court has issued the application, you must wait a period of 20 weeks before you can apply for a conditional order, which is the first stage of the divorce.

Conditional Order

The conditional order is the first of two orders made in the divorce proceedings. The conditional order does not end your marriage. It confirms that the court accepts you are entitled to a divorce. You remain married until the conditional order is made final.

Final Order

You must wait a period of six weeks and one day after the date of the conditional order, before you can apply to the court for a final order.

This is the second order made in the divorce and it is this order that will end your marriage.

Applying for a divorce

At Freedman Green Dhokia, we welcome the new no-fault divorce law reform as it brings us one step closer to ensuring that the law is in line with the world we live in today.

Our lawyers are committed in advising couples throughout the divorce process in a sensitive, time and cost-efficient manner.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or need advice about a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, please do not hesitate to contact our Family Department on 020 7625 6003 or Priya Dhokia (Head of Family & Private Wealth) by email at

No-fault divorce, now an Act of Parliament

On 25 June 2020, The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received Royal assent and became an Act of Parliament. The new law, which is expected to come into effect in Autumn 2021, will promote “no-fault divorce” by removing the requirement to assign blame in divorce petitions (please read more about this here: Divorcing on the basis of unreasonable behaviour). After years of campaigning, the change is monumental and a step in the right direction for family law practitioners.

The changes to filing for a divorce petition will be as follows:

  1. The requirement to establish one of the five facts for divorce will be dispensed with. Instead, one party, or indeed the couple, can make a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage;
  2. It will no longer be possible for one party to dispute the divorce (unless their objection is based on legal validity, jurisdiction, fraud, coercion or procedure) because a statement of irretrievable breakdown will be sufficient in demonstrating that the marriage has irretrievably broken down;
  3. Couples will be able to make a joint application for divorce;
  4. A new minimum time period of 20 weeks from the date of the petition to the date of the Conditional Divorce Order (previously known as Decree Nisi) will be introduced. There will then be a further 6 weeks before individuals can apply for a Final Divorce Order (previously Decree Absolute). This change allows couples to have more time to agree on financial and practical arrangements.

Should you wait until the new laws are introduced before you file for divorce?

Whilst it is hoped that no-fault divorces will come into place in Autumn 2021, this is not guaranteed. In any event, it may not be possible or realistic for some people to wait that long to file for divorce and, for many, ending the marriage in legal terms helps them to move on and rebuild their lives. Seeking the advice of a solicitor can be helpful in terms of weighing up the pros and cons of each option and discussing the best course of action which is, of course, dependant on the circumstances of the case.

Applying for a divorce

At Freedman Green Dhokia, we understand that much of the law relating to divorce is outdated and so we welcome any change which is in line with the modern world we live in today.

Our lawyers are committed in advising couples throughout the divorce process in a sensitive and time and cost-efficient manner.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or need advice about a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, please do not hesitate to contact our Family Department on 0207 625 6003 or Priya Dhokia by email at

Divorce and unreasonable behaviour

The current law

As it stands currently, there is only one ground for divorce in England and Wales, which is the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”. The party who is filing for divorce (the Petitioner) needs to state on what basis the marriage has broken down, by citing one of the following five facts:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years’ separation with the other party’s consent
  5. Five years’ separation (no consent required)

Unless the petitioning party is able to rely upon adultery, desertion or separation, they will need to demonstrate that the other party is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage, on the basis that their behaviour has been unreasonable. It can sometimes be difficult to find examples of unreasonable behaviour on an objective basis, as the question of what constitutes “unreasonable” can be subjective. This is why the petitioning party must explain what effect the behaviour has had on them personally (whether that be psychologically, emotionally or physically), rather than simply listing the unreasonable behaviour. The current law presents a further hindrance to the petitioner insofar as a petition must be presented within six months from the date of the last incident of unreasonable behaviour.

This issue surrounding a petitioner struggling to demonstrate unreasonable behaviour is highlighted in the case of Owens v Owens. Mrs Owens cited Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour as the reason for the breakdown of their marriage and Mr Owens contested the application. The Judge at first instance held that Mrs Owens had exaggerated the seriousness of her allegations against her husband and found that there was no unreasonable behaviour that Mrs Owens could rely upon. Mrs Owens appealed the decision and the matter was subsequently put before the Court of Appeal. Unfortunately for Mrs Owens, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Judge at first instant. After Mrs Owens appealed the decision for a second time, the matter was heard at the Supreme Court where the Judges took the view that it is their role to apply the facts to the law laid down by Parliament, and, in the circumstances, they were not satisfied that that Mr Owen’s behaviour met the threshold for unreasonable behaviour. Notwithstanding the Judges’ decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the current law had not been adapted to reflect modern day relationships.

Historically, family law practitioners have argued that the blame-based system is both outdated and unsatisfactory as it can lead to animosity between the parties which, in turn, can be detrimental when negotiating financial settlements and children arrangements. Even in situations where both spouses agree that the marriage has come to an end, through no fault of either party, one party will need to be held accountable for the divorce petition to proceed.

If you would like advice on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact Priya Dhokia of our Family Department on 0207 604 2985 or email him at