Agents must sign up with Anti Money Laundering register

The Office of Fair Trading is to launch an anti-money laundering register on July 31.

It will be compulsory for all estate agents, under money laundering legislation, to belong to the register by the end of next January.

Any agent who is not registered by then will be operating illegally. Failure to register whilst carrying on business as an estate agent could result in prosecution and jail.

The Money Laundering Regulations - which came into force on December 15, 2007 - also apply to buyers' agents and relocation agents, who should register.

The actual registration process will take around 45 days, and the OFT is specifically asking for agents to apply to join the register with plenty of time to spare.

It suggests that agents apply for registration no later than the end of November, in advance of what the OFT expects will be a pre-Christmas peak of registrations.

The registration form will be available on the OFT website from July 31 or can be obtained by ringing 020 7211 8200.

Although belonging to the anti-money laundering register will be a legal requirement, agents will have to pay. The rate is £115 per office, capped at £2,300 for a firm with 20 or more branches. There will be an annual fee payable after that, although the actual amount has yet to be decided.

If agents have any queries on registration or the regime they can email amld3@oft.gsi.gov.uk or ring the inquiries line on 020 7211 8200.

While anti-money laundering laws do not include letting agents, be aware that they do apply to letting agents in certain circumstances.

They apply if you deal in premium leases - where companies 'purchase' leases for, usually, one or two years on behalf of their employees. This particular method of renting is popular with corporates such as American banks relocating personnel on assignments to the UK.

Money laundering regulations will also apply to letting agents who accept 'double' instructions - ie where the landlord/seller instructs you to market the property for sale or for rent.

In both these circumstances, you would have to register.

Letting agents should also be aware that the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 does apply to them. This means that if you have suspicions about a landlord or tenant who might be money laundering, you have a legal duty to report those suspicions.

Solicitor David Smith, of specialist lettings law firm PainSmith, said: "While letting agents do not have to perform the identity checks required by anti-money laundering legislation or belong to the register, this announcement is a timely reminder of their obligations under the Proceeds of Crime Act."


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