A woman has been left in “distress” after handing over a cheque for £1.35 million to buy a house only to find out the seller wasn’t the real owner.
Max and Penny Hastings had been letting a west London house to a man calling himself “Kevin Hafter”, with the property listed with estate agents after he moved in.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Max said: “Her lawyer stunned us by declaring that his client -a young woman who appeared in distress on his doorstep – had bought the property after having written a seven-figure cheque for it; secured the keys and received planning consent for alterations; booked builders to install a new kitchen. The utilities had also opened accounts in her name. We were appalled.”
Penny’s identity was hijacked by an imprisoned woman changing her name by deed pole to “Penelope Hastings”. A photocopy of her new passport was all that was required. Max continued: “Once we stopped having fits, we learnt the good news. Penny still owned the property.
“Her continued legal title to the house was not disputed: the Land Registry (which is responsible for holding records of property or land), smelling a rat, had declined to register the sale.
“‘Mr Hafter’ claimed to be acting on behalf of a Penelope Hastings — my wife’s name, of course — who, he said, lived in Chicago.
“A price was swiftly agreed with an eager client. And a firm of licensed conveyancers acted for the alleged seller.
“Regardless, the crime was managed so professionally it seems likely that ‘Mr Hafter’ has form.
“But since he has now vanished with a tax-free million-plus to spend after the young woman he duped paid the money into a Dubai bank account, he could bask in sunny climes for several years.
“Yesterday at the house we found a court summons from Hammersmith Council addressed to ‘Mr Kevin Hafter’ — for non-payment of council tax . . . which seems unlikely to trouble him much. Our letting agents (not Foxtons) insistently deny negligence, and say this could happen to anybody.
“Absurdly they say they cannot refund the deposit on the property without the consent of the ‘tenant’ — the mysterious Mr Hafter.”