- Imagine someone stealing your house and the cops telling you they don’t give a ****.
It’s one thing to have burglars break into your home and steal your stuff. But to have them steal the entire house? That’s just too much.
But that’s what happened to a British clergyman from the U.K. He returned home from a work assignment only to find that someone had stolen his house.
Reverend Mike Hall lives in Luton, some 30 miles from London. However, at least since last July, his three-bedroom house had been empty since he was working in northern Wales.
At least, his house was supposed to be empty. But on August 20, he received a phone call from a concerned neighbor.
The neighbor, who was aware that Hall wasn’t at home, had spotted suspicious activity in his home. They told Hall that all the lights in his house were on and they could see someone inside the property.
Alarmed, Hall took the time the very next morning to drive down all the way from Wales to Luton to check on his house. Only, when he got there, it wasn’t his house anymore.
‘I Haven’t Sold the House’
When Hall got to the house, he promptly walked to the front door and tried to open it. But his key no longer fit the lock.
“I went to the front door, tried my key in the front door, it didn’t work,” Hall told the BBC.
Luckily — or more like disconcertingly — a helpful soul opened the door for him. A strange man opened the door from the inside.
Of course, in Hall’s mind, this person had no business being in his house. So, he didn’t waste time on cordial greetings.
“I pushed him to one side and got in the property. I really didn’t know what he was doing there,” he said.
And then the worst of it hit. Someone had completely emptied the house and torn up the place. All of it was gone, from Hall’s furniture to his private possessions.
“The shock of seeing the house completely stripped of furniture; all furnishings, carpet, curtains — everything — was out of the property,” recalled Hall.
The stranger who was in the house explained that he was a builder who’d been hired to work on the house. Hall wasn’t buying it, though — why would there be a builder in his home he hadn’t hired?
“I haven’t sold the house. This is still my property,” he told the man.
To Protect and Be Extremely Unhelpful
At this point, Hall understandably called the police. The builder, who must’ve been extremely confused, left and soon returned.
With the builder was another man who claimed to be the house’s new owner’s father. He was very understanding and returned the property to Hall.
Nah, just kidding. He told Hall that he’d bought the house from Mike Hall in July and ordered the Reverend to leave.
“It is now my property. You are now trespassing. Get out,” the man told Hall.
By that time, the police had also arrived. To try and clear up the confusion, they had the arguing men check sales records.
“We then tried to access the Land Registry documentation online to find out whose name appeared [as the owner]. And it is, in fact, as of August 4, this man’s name,” said Hall.
And with that, the case was closed — at least as far as the police was concerned. They told Hall that the sale of the house was a civil matter and there was nothing the cops could do.
“I was shocked — having seen the house in the state it was, I was in a bit of a state of shock anyway,” Hall said.
“But then to be told by the police they didn’t believe a criminal offence had been committed here was just unbelievable,” he added.
Of course, someone had committed a criminal offense. According to information the BBC acquired, a con artist stole Hall’s identity and sold the house for nearly $180,000.
The fraudster had created a fake driver’s license he used to impersonate Hall. He had also opened a bank account and a phone line using his stolen identity.
As far as the law was concerned, the new owner now held the legal deed to the house. In fact, according to Bedfordshire Live, the police didn’t take the criminal case seriously until the BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours program contacted them with the evidence.
“An investigation has been launched and we are currently following several lines of enquiry, whilst supporting the victim involved,” detective inspector James Day from Bedfordshire Police’s Serious Fraud Investigation Unit said.
“We recognize the distress that incidents like this can cause victims and we have taken steps to improve our response to these types of incidents in Bedfordshire,” Day added.
That’s probably a cold comfort to Hall after the cops told him that they just didn’t care.
Fraudulent property sales are rare in the U.K., but not unheard of. According to the Land Registry, the agency paid nearly $4.8 million in fraud compensation last year.
“We work with professional conveyancers, such as solicitors, and rely on them and the checks that they make to spot fraudulent attempts to impersonate property owners,” the Land Registry said.
“Despite our efforts, every year we do register a very small number of fraudulent transactions.”