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Propertymark’s plan to curb economic crime in our industry

Propertymark has put forward a six-point plan to slash economic crime in the property sector.

The trade body says a series of new laws - The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act, the Register of Overseas Entities and the Economic Crime Plan 2023-2026 - have focussed attention on improving the UK’s reputation as a place where legitimate businesses can thrive while driving dirty money away.

Propertymark says lettings and estate agents play an important role in reducing economic crime and insists more must be done to support professionals to comply and ensure the property sector is less vulnerable to attack from criminal activity.


Here are the trade body’s six recommendation to government:

1. Regulate all UK Property Agents: Estate agents operating across the UK and letting agents in England and Northern Ireland are unregulated, which means anyone can set up a business. To work in the sector there are no minimum standards and there is no statutory regulation to ensure agents are suitably qualified. The UK Government must implement measures to ensure everyone in the industry is licensed, adheres to a strict code of practice, and holds (at least) a Level 3 qualification;

2. Compliance: HM Treasury must introduce an easily accessible Politically Exposed Person (PEP) list;

3. Supervision: The Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) needs to facilitate and report on the exchange of information between supervisors within and across different industries. HM Treasury has to consolidate supervision across sectors by reducing the number of supervisory bodies, which would be more sector-specific;


4. Enforcement: Fines are an effective deterrent, and we know of several agents who have been fined by HMRC. A strong approach to enforcement and prosecution for non-compliance is essential and the National Crime Agency (NCA) and HMRC should be able to retain fines with money ring-fenced for investment in enforcement activity;

5. Suspicious Activity Reports: Improved guidance for Suspicious Activity Reports (SARS) is paramount, and the UK Government must develop a standard form for SARS tailored to the property sector; and

6. Register of Overseas Entities: Property agents must be able to legally rely on the verification of beneficial owners on the Register of Overseas Entities as part of their own Customer Due Diligence and HM Land Registry detail must be linked with the Register to determine property ownership. 

Propertymark concludes it thoughts on the subject by saying that the  sheer size of the property market in the UK and the high value of property assets means that extremely large amounts of criminal funds can be ‘cleaned’ in a single transaction. The role of property agents needs to be strengthened to tackle economic crime. 


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