For some time now I have been saying that the ‘powers that be’ are starting to sit up and take a long look at the Estate Agency business sector.

 

As with all larger corporate bodies, change can be slow in coming, however now it would appear that HMRC have definitely upped their game!

 

MP’s have described ‘Agents’ as ‘The Weak Link” in the Anti-Money Laundering regime and recently their Estate Agency Team carried out 50 unannounced visits to agents across the UK registered with them for Anti-Money Laundering supervision and carried out checks on these companies to see if ‘compliance’ measures were in place; sadly a few companies were found to be lacking in the ‘compliance’ area and received various levels of fines.

 

Here are the areas visited:

 

London (35)

 

Leicester (5)

 

South Buckinghamshire & Berkshire (4)

 

Greater Manchester (3)

 

Watford (1)

 

Wakefield (1)

 

Wolverhampton (1)

 

Here is a list of the companies, locations, areas where legislation was breached and their fines:

 

Compliance & Registration Penalties

 

Company                       Location                          Regulation Breach                                 Fine

 

 

Countrywide

 

Chelmsford

 

Failure to ensure:

1.    Policies & Procedures in place

2.    Due Diligence completed

3.    Timing of Verification

4.    Proper Record Keeping

 

 

£215,000.00

 

Tepilo Limited

 

London

 

Failure to ensure:

1.   Policies & Procedures in place

2.   Due Diligence completed

3.   Risk Assessment in Place

 

£  68,595.00

 

UK Settled Limited

 

London

 

Failure to ensure:

1.      Policies & Procedures in place

2.      Due Diligence completed

3.      Risk Assessment in Place

4.      Staff Training

5.      Timing of Verification

 

£     3,245.00

 

Vail Williams LLP

 

Reading

 

Failure to ensure:

1.      Policies & Procedures in place

2.      Due Diligence completed

3.      Risk Assessment in Place

4.      Staff Training

 

£     3,461.00

 

 

So, what should Sourcing Agents take from this?

 

Whilst fulfilling your legal requirement by registering for Anti-Money Laundering supervision, the fact is that the act of ‘registering’ is literally the tip of the iceberg in comparison to being ‘fully compliant’ with this sector.

 

As most sourcers come into the sector to build a cash pot so that they can eventually invest in property themselves, believing or being led to believe that ‘registering’ for supervision is all that is required can cost you heavily; as some of the fines listed above attest to.

 

If you don’t want to receive a heavy fine, then you really need to get a good understanding of what is expected of you by the legislation and of course HMRC; before they come calling on you!

 

Tina Walsh

 

 

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