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   Inside Out - East: Monday January 31, 2005

'FREE' LAND

Nick Lawrence with "Keep Out" sign
Can Nick Lawrence lay claim to this plot of land?

Inside Out has unearthed a scheme designed to appeal to anyone who has ever dreamed of being a landowner.

With free land supposedly up for grabs and claims that 15,000 people successfully secure plots each year, we find out if this get rich quick scheme is just too good to be true.

The scheme, advertised in the press, has already come to attention of many of those keen to be landowners, but the promise of free land has also raised suspicions.

"We've had telephone calls and letters from members of the public asking 'are the claims true?'" explains Mike Westcott Rudd, a lawyer with the Land Registry.

Free land advertisement
The claim 'free' land scheme has been advertised in the press

"They just seem too good to believe."

To get to the bottom of the scheme, Inside Out presenter Nick Lawrence, answers the advert, digs out his wellies and his wax jacket and prepares to become a member of the landed gentry.

Stake your claim

The key to securing this supposedly free land lies in a book titled 'A Layman's Guide to an Immense Free Fortune', published by a company calling itself 'Lord and Thomas'.

For the princely sum of £69.95, the book gives step by step instructions to staking a claim.

According to the book Nick must first find a piece of land that has no traceable owner.

Nick Lawrence as a country gent
Nick Lawrence - master of all he surveys

Then to make his mark, he could, for instance, erect a fence, tend to the grass and wait.

Twelve years later - the land will be his.

But according to the guide, this doesn't stop Nick putting the land to good use in the meantime.

The book is full of top tips as to how Nick can make money while he waits; from growing fruit and vegetables to grazing animals and even breeding earthworms!

Possession is 9/10ths of the law?

According to the Layman's Guide, all this is possible due to the law of adverse possession.

Mike Westcott Rudd
"The legislation was to make it more difficult, not more simple, to acquire a title by squatting.
Mike Westcott Rudd, Land Registry lawyer

But according to Mike Westcott Rudd, the law of adverse possession is not there to help speculative squatters become landowners, but to settle disagreements, such as garden borders.

"It is used generally to sort out minor discrepancies of title," explains Mike.

"It's absolutely true that there has been some major new property legislation, but one of the purposes of that legislation was to make it more difficult, not more simple, to acquire a title by squatting."

The Land Registry is the official government agency in charge of land ownership.

According to them, the claims in the guide and advertisement are seriously misleading.

'Loadsamoney'

Publishers of the guide 'Lord and Thomas', are not just limited to free land schemes, but offer a range of supposed get rich quick literature.

You can even set up in business yourself selling "Lord and Thomas" publications, with the promise of rich returns.

£10 notes
Are get rich quick schemes too good to be true?

One scheme claims you can make £5,000 in just 90 days and comes complete with a money-back guarantee.

David Broughton of Trading Standards remains sceptical,

"There appears to be no protection whatsoever. In fact it is very difficult for me to work out who the contract is with.

"I would certainly advise people to take great care before entering into a contract like this."

There are numerous companies marketing this scheme.

Nick purchased his from DLB Global Marketing, based in Cambridgeshire, who declined to be interviewed for the programme.

Daren Bradley, from DLB, did issue a statement insisting that he had made a good income from selling the schemes. Yet he admits some customers have asked for their money back. He wouldn’t say how many.

Daren Bradley also claims that the company no longer markets these schemes, he says:

"DLB has now stopped selling Lord and Thomas products and will not be selling them again."

Paperback writer

Simon Johansson 2001
"I am dismayed the Land Registry has now opted to frown upon my publication."
Simon Johansson, author of 'A Layman's Guide to an Immense Free Fortune'.
Picture from a BBC interview 2001

The author of most of the schemes and publications including the Layman's Guide is quoted as one Scandinavian sounding Simon Johansson. But he proves difficult to track down.

'Lord and Thomas' operate using a mail drop address and 0800 telephone numbers only.

Further investigation and the discovery of an earlier edition of the 'Layman's Guide', reveals a previous name of Simon J Hill of Barnsley, not Scandinavia.

Simon Johansson, as he now chooses to be known as, declines to be interviewed by Inside Out about the Layman's Guide and his other publications.

In a statement issued through his solicitor he states:

"The Land Registry assisted me with my research. I am dismayed the Land Registry has now opted to frown upon my publication."

And in response to his Mega Wealth Scheme, Simon Johansson still insists that the income he quotes is achievable.

"It is a choice of the individual whether he or she chooses to invest. I have evidence of many members who have made a profit."

David Broughton
David Broughton of Trading Standards remains sceptical

Elbow grease

Without evidence that these schemes actually work, David Broughton remains unconvinced:

"I don't believe there are any legitimate schemes out there that can get you rich quick."

But before Nick forgoes his dream of being a landowner, David has his own sure-fire get rich scheme to rival 'An Immense Free Fortune'.

"Work blooming hard for it."

Unfortunately it doesn't have quite the same ring.

Been affected?

If you have bought into a scheme which you were unhappy with and would like to make a complaint, please contact Trading Standards.

See also ...

On the rest of Inside Out
Plots of potential
Field of dreams
Garden developers
Pyramid selling

On bbc.co.uk
Watchdog

On the rest of the web
Land Register Online
Land Registry
Trading Standards

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Anonymous
Iain, Land Registry website is at www.landregistry.gov.uk. Individual local offices are listed within the site at http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/regional/

Tekin Demirel
I have bought one of those books by relying on the info was provided in the advertisement. after i received the book it seemed completely different and impossible. its a trick...

Iain Drummond
I may be mistaken but your presenter on your very interesting programme on 'Get Rich' scam on land grabbing promised a web site for the land registry offices. I cannot find it on your web site. Have I just failed to read your site thoroughly or was it never there in the first place. I enjoy your programme immensely.



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