The National Association of Estate Agents says it welcomes the government’s commitment to establish a public register of beneficial ownership information in a bid to make the purchasing of property more transparent and combat money laundering.
“We very much welcome the Prime Minister’s pledge to ensure that anonymous individuals will no longer be able to buy properties in the UK using shell companies to hide their identity. Properties allegedly bought with dirty money impacts supply in the housing market as they are unavailable to potential other buyers who really do want a ‘home’” says Mark Hayward, the association’s managing director.
But he cautions: “Of course the devil is always in the detail and the most important element here is who the responsibilities will sit with and how this will be enforced across the housing buying process.”
Any foreign company that wants to buy UK property - or indeed wants to bid for central government contracts - will have to join a new public register of beneficial ownership information. This will be the first register of its kind anywhere in the world.
It will include companies who already own property in the UK, not just those wishing to buy. The government says foreign-based companies own around 100,000 properties in England and Wales. Over 44,000 of these are in London.
The government claims the new register for foreign companies will mean corrupt individuals and countries will no longer be able to move, launder and hide illicit funds through London’s property market.
At an anti-corruption summit in London last week some 40 jurisdictions, including a number of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies with major financial centres agreed to share their beneficial ownership registers with other countries, including the UK.