Q. I am currently based in Asia and looking to sell my investment that I bought some years ago in the UK. My solicitor has recommended a local agent and I am currently in correspondence with them with respect to marketing the property. However, I have hit a bit of a brick wall with them as prior to marketing they are insisting on a copy of my original passport and proof of address or alternatively a certified copy of the documents. Do you think they are being unreasonable or is this really going to prevent them from being able to sell the property for me?
A. I’m afraid they are absolutely correct, they would have to be compliant with the AML Regulations that we are bound by as regulated agents. On 1 April 2014 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) became the supervisor of Estate Agency Businesses under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, as such HMRC requires that estate agencies are obliged to perform due diligence on their clients before doing business with them, regardless of whether the client is selling or buying property. Scooting around this obligation will not be open for discussion with a regulated agent as the penalties for being non-compliant are absolutely huge. The UK Government estimates that serious organised crime in the UK generates upwards of £24bn a year. Property professionals are a particularly attractive target for criminals seeking to disguise or hide the proceeds of crime and therefore Agents need to be prepared to face the challenges posed by criminals attempting to disguise the illegal origin of their profits hence the main reason why HMRC have put responsibility for due diligence when selling or renting a property on our shoulders. As annoying and difficult as this may appear please understand that we are simply doing our job and not being awkward or difficult, this really is a very serious issue for regulated agents and as such each office has to have a designated money laundering officer to assume responsibility that the AML checks are carried out to ensure their firm remains compliant.