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Mike Hall vs Property Fraud in Luton

Luton Reverend Case Continued: What Happened So Far?

Cases

April 12, 2024

Do you remember Mike Hall

The shocking case of this Luton reverend - who lost his home to property scammers -  has been followed in the news for years. 

We covered it in this article, if you need a quick refresher. 

His tragic story has become so well known, because it accurately shows the dangers of property fraud and identity theft

In the past few months, new developments have revived media interest in this striking fraud case.

 

Luton Reverend vs Property Fraud 

Let's start with good news.

After a good two and a half years, Mr Hall has finally managed to recover his property. Now, his name appears in HM Land Registry records as that of the rightful owner. 

However, It has not been a dull two years for the Reverend of Luton.

To regain possession of the house, Mr Hall had to go through a long battle in court.

Fortunately, in the end - justice prevailed.

Mr Hall promptly shared the good news at the mics of the BBC radio programme You and Yours, which had originally given prominence to his story.

"Justice has been done. It has been a long time: my application has been submitted in September 2021, and I was advised that it was quite a lengthy process to see a resolution. (…) finally they recognised without a doubt that I am the legal owner of that property. "

Soon after the victory in court, Mr Hall made arrangements for a builder to refurbish the house, eager for a fresh start. 

However, another unpleasant news was in store for him. Mr Hall found the door lock forced open, the curtains closed and the windows broken.

From outside the property, he could see lights and television set on at the first floor.

The realisation came at once.

Squatters had taken over his property. 

The house, which had been empty for months, was left vulnerable as the court case initiated by Reverend Hall proceeded. 

After assessing the damages from the first property fraud, was around £60,000. This bitter new update caught the Reverend in disbelief.

He even tried knocking on the front door to see if anyone would come out.

“I knocked on the door and nobody replied; there were obviously people in there. There were certainly movements of one person I could hear. (…) At that point I decided to involve the police."

Yet, squatting has been a criminal offence since 2012 in the UK. Hence, Mr Hall's predicament, however bad, could have been resolved by police intervention. 

But in the case of residential squatters, if the landlord does not file an Interim Possession Order (IPO), the police cannot intervene.

"They said they have no power to do anything. Yes, squatting is illegal, but I need to go to court to have an IPO. Only at that point will they be able to act and arrest the squatters.”

But it was at this point that things went wrong. When the police visited the property to assess the situation, the squatters claimed that they regularly rented the house.

Certainly, neither Mr Hall nor the temporary owner could have signed such an agreement. 

For Mr Hall, however, it is now a matter of going back to square one.

“I got we were quite nearly there in terms of making an agreement and then getting the work done to move on from this saga. This is just another layer that is now turning into another legal battle.” 

Mike also tried to insure his property, yet no company is willing to do so because of his ‘squatters issue’.

The problem is trickier than it seems.

The police can intervene immediately when squatters are caught breaking in, but this rarely happens.

On the contrary, when squatters manage to set up successfully, they often invoke 'squatters' rights', says Paul Shamplina from Landlord Action.

At that point, squatters can follow a number of mischievous tactics. 

Usually, they strive to forge a fake rental agreement. Even if it is fake, it will allow them to extend their stay - at least until the contract is proven to be false.

 

Property fraud still on the rise

This rather original form of title fraud is rising - as all forms of property fraud.

Reverend Mike Hall is certainly not the only one affected, even though he got quite unlucky with the timing: similar cases are increasing dramatically all over England and Wales.

But now the question for Reverend Hall is: will he get any compensation at all after this second incident? 

Unfortunately, it is not easy to provide a decisive answer, since title fraud compensation schemes are chronically out of date.

The compensation schemes are lengthy, convoluted processes where a positive outcome, such as receiving the money back, is never guaranteed.

Even if Mr. Hall succeeds in securing compensation, it may take years to achieve this result. 

Just as it did when he had to reclaim his property.