How to protect yourself from an invalid transaction when buying an apartment?

The high cost of an apartment is one of the main factors that makes this market sector of real estate sales very criminalized. Fraudsters, taking advantage of the legal illiteracy of our population, continue to deceive thousands of gullible citizens in transactions for the purchase or sale of apartments. How to minimize the risks of selling or buying residential real estate? Before answering this question, let’s look at the most traditional methods of fraud in the apartment market and define the range of potentially “dangerous” types of real estate, which include:

  • housing in which at the time of the purchase/sale transaction someone lives or is registered;
  • apartments inherited by right of inheritance;
  • apartments of conscripts or convicts in accordance with a court decision;
  • housing for minor owners;
  • apartments for disabled people or pensioners;
  • apartments of persons registered in drug treatment or psychoneurological dispensaries.

Selling an apartment whose owners include children

One of the most common types of fraud is the sale of an apartment, the owners of which, along with the adult owners, are also minor children. In some cases, such transactions can be challenged in court by the previous owners of the apartment or relatives - guardians. The procedure for selling this housing requires permission from the guardianship authorities, issued if the children move to an apartment of larger area, greater cost, or, for example, to a better area. Sometimes inspectors from the Guardianship Department are put in a difficult position when assessing a child’s future housing, for example, when a family moves from a prestigious brick house to a panel high-rise building with larger square footage. In such cases, permission can be given on the condition that the sole owner of the new apartment will be one child, that is, the rights of the owners of the parents are infringed. That is, when a permit is issued by the Guardianship Department, there may be cases where it is declared invalid. Separately, it should be said about new children's housing in new buildings, which may be “frozen” for many reasons. According to the law, minor children must be provided with housing within three months from the date of sale of the old apartment, and control over the implementation of the law is entrusted to the prosecutor's office. Obviously, the prosecutor’s office cannot exercise total control over the observance of children’s rights, but no one is immune from control sampling and invalidation of a purchase and sale transaction. In these cases, there is only one piece of advice - contact a real estate office with an impeccable reputation, where all the nuances of selling such an apartment will be taken into account.

Sale of an apartment whose owners include disabled people

Similar problems can await a buyer when purchasing residential real estate with owners who are disabled and under guardianship. If the disabled owner was declared incompetent at the time of the transaction, the transaction will be cancelled. If the purchase and sale agreement for an apartment contains the signature of a fully capable person who is aware of his actions, then the owner of the apartment should not fear the legal consequences of concluding such a transaction. A separate line is fraud in the sale of apartments that belonged to persons registered in a psychoneurological dispensary. Such an agreement and the rights of the new owner can also be challenged, therefore, before concluding a transaction, you should request a certificate from this organization about whether or not the seller of the apartment is on this account. If the adequacy of the apartment seller raises your suspicions and you do not fully trust the integrity of the employees of the psychoneurological dispensary, then it is better to organize an independent examination of the apartment seller on the day the purchase and sale agreement is concluded. The category of transactions with apartments, where at the time of the transaction someone is registered, is one of the simplest, since according to the law, these persons can be forcibly discharged by court. But, in reality, this procedure can take several months. Real estate transactions where the owners (or shareholders) are conscripts or those convicted and serving a sentence in court can also be extended, since in this case they fall into the “temporarily unavailable” category.

How to protect yourself from scammers when buying an apartment?




There are many ways of fraud in real estate transactions. However, each has its own recipe for counteraction. CIAN discussed the problem of legal integrity with Sergei Vishnyakov, an expert in the security of real estate transactions. First, let's talk about what documents it would be a good idea to request from the seller to make the transaction more secure. Extract from the house register We need an expanded (archival) extract from the house register, which contains information about registered and discharged people in recent years. A person can be discharged or registered at any time. Therefore, the closer the statement date is to the date of the upcoming transaction, the better. An extract from the house register is valid for 30 days. From this document you can find out whether those who could eventually return and register back were discharged from the apartment. For example, previously convicts, military personnel, etc. were discharged from apartments. Now this is less common, because those who were once “discharged to prison” have, for the most part, already returned, and according to the new rules they are not discharged from their apartments at all. However, there are cases when older people are discharged to a sanatorium or dispensary, and then they try to sell the apartment: supposedly, no one appears on the discharge list (however, the person still exists, and is alive). In addition, according to the archival data of the house register, it is possible to understand whether the rights of minors were violated. Nowadays they don’t do this, but previously children were discharged before the start of privatization, so as not to register real estate on them and not to go through the board of guardians before selling them. This is a violation of the rights of minors - the child is deprived of the share that he could have. Such a “pitfall” could appear at any time, at least until the child reaches 18 years of age. Remember that the Housing Code contains a clause that states that a person who refuses privatization retains all the rights of the owner. It cannot be written out when selling, even in court, no matter what cunning sellers say. It is with an archival extract from the house register that all these things are verified. LAWYER'S ADVICE You must understand that to register a transaction, an archival extract from the house register is not required (an ordinary one will suffice), and the seller may refuse to receive it for your checks. In this case, you should try to visit the passport office yourself and get information from the passport officers. Certificate from a psychoneurological clinic There are two options for certificates. The first, standard one, is that the person is not registered at a psychoneurological dispensary (PND). It is provided at the place of residence in your district PND. If the certificate was received through an acquaintance in another area, it does not carry any information for you. The second version of the certificate is issued only based on the results of an in-person medical examination, when the person’s sanity is checked separately, and the doctor is responsible for his resolution. It is advisable to have both certificates on hand, because a person’s absence from registration at the dispensary does not mean anything. If a buyer sees from a certificate that a person suffers from chronic mental illness, this is a reason to think hard about whether it is worth making a deal at all. After completing the transaction, the seller can claim that he did not realize what he was doing, he provided a certificate, and the buyer knew about it - which means he wanted to deceive. LAWYER'S ADVICE You can call an expert psychiatrist yourself; he will conduct an examination right before the transaction, but this should be done in the case of a super-liquid apartment and in case of doubt about the mental health of the seller. There are such experts at the Serbsky Institute - they specialize in forensic psychiatry there. Certificates from Mosenergo and others It is worth requesting certificates about the absence of utility debts. By law, all debts for housing and communal services relate to the person who used them - that is, to the seller. The money should be taken from him. However, while you are sorting out half a million in debt, your electricity will be preventively turned off, which will not add to the joy of the purchase. Payments for major home repairs relate specifically to the property. Such a certificate must be obtained separately, because if it turns out that there are still debts, the buyer will have to pay them off. Apartment Acceptance and Transfer Certificate This document is drawn up in simple written form (a sample apartment transfer and acceptance act is easy to find on the Internet). Its form is not fixed in the law, so it is usually treated rather negligently - it is lost and forgotten. LAWYER'S ADVICE The act is drawn up in free form, but must indicate the details of the participants in the transaction with their passport details. The address of the apartment and a phrase about the absence of arrears in payments must also be entered (at the same time you can add: if they appear, the seller will compensate for everything). There is an important point: the act usually states the fact that the seller has received money and that there are no financial claims. If there is no such clause, you should make sure that the seller received the money for the transaction and is not going to protest it. Relatively recently, I came across such a case - the current seller had not yet paid off the previous one and was trying to sell the property to a new buyer. After inspections, the property was removed from advertising and our client, naturally, refused such a deal. Sergey Vishnyakov, an expert on the security of real estate transactions. Types of fraud with apartments. Forged passport. Nowadays, apartment sales using a false passport are quite rare. More often, using a false passport, they can try to collect advances for an apartment and hide. If the usual amount of prepayment for an apartment is 30-50 thousand rubles, then the scammer asks for 200-300 thousand, arguing, for example, that he found another apartment for himself cheaper - he urgently needs to make an advance payment “so as not to drift away.” In this case, the price of the apartment is set below the market price. After collecting a few deposits, the scammer disappears. However, sales using a false passport also happen, so check the passport through the database of invalid passports of the Central Internal Affairs Directorate. It is important to see the passport in person, and not a copy or photo from the screen. Compare the passport data with the person presenting it to you. Alienation under a contract of sale or gift from persons from a high-risk group When we talk about high-risk groups, we mean alcoholics, drug addicts, and sometimes elderly or simply lonely people. If a relative is mentally ill, it is not uncommon to transfer the apartment to another healthy family member, who then sells the property. To avoid fraud, pay attention to when the previous transfer of ownership was registered, for what transaction and who was its participant - already at this stage many conclusions can be drawn. Often, for such cases, a power of attorney is used to sell. In the regions it is easier to obtain such paper. In general, buying by proxy is always a big risk: it is not clear whether the owner is alive and well, or why he does not want to participate in the transaction. But if previously there was a risk of revocation of the power of attorney (and thus the sale was carried out using an invalid document), then by now an official register of powers of attorney of the federal notary chamber has been created. Here you can check whether the paper actually exists and whether it is valid at the time of sale. True, this only works if the power of attorney was issued in Russia. If it was issued abroad, it will not be possible to check it. When selling by proxy, you need to pay attention to what the bearer is authorized to do: what if he only has the right to collect documents for the sale of the apartment, but not to formalize a transaction with it, sell, rent out and receive money for it. The permission to sell or accept an advance for an apartment, submit documents for registration, conclude a transfer deed, and receive money for it must be clearly stated. If these powers are not specified, then the seller’s representative does not have the right to receive an advance payment and, by transferring it to an unauthorized person, the buyer risks being deceived when selling the apartment. A power of attorney is a reason to be wary, even taking into account the fact that the document itself can be verified quite easily. Sale at a false address In the case of a sale at a false address, a person is brought to one apartment, but in the contract they sell a completely different one. It is important to carefully monitor whether you really came there to view: a scammer can simply take you “somewhere” and chat, you will not pay attention to whether the addresses of the property being purchased and the one being viewed are the same. They often change numbers on doors, but it’s one thing to change one number, and quite another to change everything. If you are careful, you will not be fooled. While viewing, check the neighboring apartments, the floor, and later, the matches of the addresses in the documents. Sale of non-privatized housing Remember: municipal housing is not privatized, which means it does not “belong” to the person living in it, and he cannot dispose of it. You can't buy it. You can find out whether the apartment in front of you is municipal or privatized from the certificate of registration of rights or an extract from the Unified State Register of Real Estate. Require these documents, they must be on every transaction. You can also obtain an extract from the Unified State Register yourself. If there is no data on the apartment you are interested in, it means that it is not owned, and you should not contact this offer. Transactions in violation of the rights of minors As we said above, back in 2004-2005, the discharge of minors before privatization was very popular. As a result, a “pitfall” appeared in the history of the apartment; a safe purchase of such an apartment was impossible. The buyer had to wait and fear the moment when the child becomes an adult and, perhaps, decides to restore his rights. Even now it happens that the order of the board of guardians gives permission to sell an apartment owned by a child. Not with the condition of simultaneously purchasing another property with it, but with the condition of purchasing it in the future. There is a risk here that parents will buy, for example, a new building and decide: “Why should we register it for the child, we’ll deal with it later. I’m not going to deceive him.” It turns out that the child was left without property. And this is a violation of his rights. And if a child is deprived, then there is no guarantee that in the future he will not return for his share. Potential risks may arise from transactions using maternity capital. One of the problems may arise when using maternal capital to pay off the mortgage for the apartment that the father bought. Since maternity capital funds were used to purchase it, the shares in the apartment need to be re-registered for the children (for the whole family, including the mother). This is not controlled by anyone. As a result, parents sell an apartment to buy a new one, but children are not given ownership rights. Here, too, there is a risk that the child, when he grows up, will return to restore his rights. LAWYER'S ADVICE An extract from the house register will help you draw conclusions about whether someone's rights were violated during privatization. If there were violations, you need to understand that this is a “pitfall” that can remind itself years later. It is quite difficult to resolve this issue when purchasing, therefore it is easier to refuse.

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Deposit for the sale of an apartment

The deposit is another “stumbling block” when drawing up an apartment purchase and sale agreement. The main rule is not to give large sums of money before executing real estate transactions. It is best, with the support of a lawyer, to conclude a preliminary agreement, which describes in detail the amount of the deposit, the terms for concluding the main agreement, etc. You can also draw up a preliminary agreement with a notary - the cost of such a “visa” will not be expensive, unlike the notarized signing of the main agreement. When signing the contract, indicate the real, and not the fictitious (reduced) cost of the apartment, since it will be legally impossible to collect the actual transaction amount from the seller.

Preventing problems before buying an apartment

Another tip - do not hesitate to contact the unified state register of property rights before purchasing an apartment to know exactly who the owner of the apartment is and whether it is under arrest. If the transaction is cancelled, then you will have documents in your hands proving that you are a bona fide purchaser, which is a great advantage when trying the case in court. It is also worth visiting the housing maintenance office to make sure that no one is registered in the apartment you are buying. Of course, there can be many fraudulent schemes when selling an apartment, and no one, for example, is immune from forgery of documents by a person who is not the owner of the apartment. Oddly enough, just common sense and a visit to your potential neighbors can help here. “Do you know how long Tatyana has been selling this apartment?” “What Tatyana, this apartment is owned by Ivan Ivanovich...” Everything described is only a small part of the pitfalls when selling or buying residential real estate, so it is better not to sell an apartment on your own. Usually, experienced realtors know how to secure this kind of transaction. Our real estate agency “Palitra” will provide professional assistance when drawing up an apartment purchase and sale agreement and will take on all the hassle of checking the “legal purity” of the residential property being sold so that the transaction is legally as secure as possible for both the buyer and the seller.

Types of real estate fraud

Over the past 10 years in Russia, the number of transactions carried out using scams has increased by 20%. Every year, elderly people who are lonely or abandoned by their relatives fall into the web of scammers and lose their real estate. There are many situations when a pensioner can lose an apartment.

Thus, there is fraud when renting an apartment, social services, or buying and selling at a symbolic cost. Even sensible citizens fall for the options used by scammers. During thefts, fraudulent schemes are used through the following operations:

  • life annuity;
  • registration of a deed of gift for a social worker;
  • exchanging an apartment for a smaller area with payment of an unequal difference;
  • rental housing.

Lifetime annuity agreement for a pensioner

Entering into a life annuity agreement with a scammer can be a risky deal. The essence of such an agreement: the pensioner is provided with care and full maintenance, and after the owner of the home dies, the apartment becomes the property of the rent payer.

If such a rent payer is a criminal, the fraudster's care for the elderly does not last long and the elderly person soon dies.

The possibility of losing housing exists even during the pensioner’s lifetime: instead of receipts confirming receipt of rent payments, he is given a termination of the rental agreement and a document for the alienation of housing (deed of gift, purchase and sale) or a power of attorney to dispose of the apartment for his signature.

Fake social workers

A technique often used by scammers to gain the trust of a pensioner is to use the image of a social security employee. Using a fake social worker ID, the fraudster enters the house. Under the guise of some kind of paperwork, most often for the provision of benefits and an additional pension, the swindler gives the tenant to sign a power of attorney to dispose of the apartment.

It happens that real social workers who have information about lonely old people resort to such a theft scheme. A pensioner is persuaded to move into a nursing home, accepting housing as payment for staying and serving in such an institution. In fact, the maintenance costs the fraudster much less than the proceeds received from the sale of real estate.

Fraudsters can deceive a pensioner already in a nursing home. A criminal from among the staff looks for lonely people there, persuades them to re-register an apartment in his name for additional care, increased nutrition and improved living conditions.

The scheme is the same: the citizen does not receive any funds from the sale, or in the best case scenario, he receives a meager payment that is not comparable to the value of the transaction.

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Unequal exchange of apartment

This scheme is designed, as a rule, for that category of pensioners who have debts for housing and communal services. They are offered to exchange the apartment for housing of a smaller area so that the additional payment is enough to pay off the debt. The swindlers, having completed a deal with the participation of dummies, resettle the victim to a remote village or a house unfit for habitation, and the pensioner’s living space is then resold.

Fraud when renting out an apartment

Sometimes elderly citizens, wanting to receive additional income, rent out an apartment to tenants, and themselves move to live with their children or other relatives. Renting real estate is dangerous because when renting an apartment, scammers ask for original ownership documents to conclude an agreement. Having taken possession of the necessary papers or forged them, swindlers sell the object, posing as the owner.

The real owner will find out about the sale of the property later when he discovers strangers there. Restoring justice through the police and the court takes a lot of time, effort and money.

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