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HM Land Registry portal enhancements – a benefit to the property industry

11 August 2020

Following the announcement on 27 July that transfers of ownership of property, leases, mortgages, and other property dealings can be signed electronically, HM Land Registry has also confirmed that customers in Wales and England can now manage all portal applications and correspondence in one central place. Read More...

Government urged to speed up cladding remediation process

10 August 2020

The second report from the Industry Safety Steering Group on the progress of culture change in the construction sector was issued on 5 August, which highlighted the need for further change for the industry now, ahead of the legislation. Read More...

Consultation to reform planning system launched

06 August 2020

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick announced today, 6 August, the Government is ‘Planning for the Future’ and aims to overhaul outdated systems and reform the way the country builds. Read More...

NCA calls for changes in light of the Russia report

Thursday 23 July 2020

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament issued their report on 21 July on Russia, highlighting the problems estate agents are faced with in combatting financial crime activity in property markets.

The report accuses the Government of playing catch-up with the issue of Russian interference into UK politics, elections, referendums, Brexit, and spreading fake news, describing it as a ‘hot potato’, which nobody wanted to touch.

Whist the report itself contains little reference to property purchases, perceptions of the activity involved focus on estate agency. Longstanding Labour MP, Dame Margaret Hodge tweeted “Estate agents, lawyers, accountants, politicians & advisors are allowing this dirty money to pour in. The Govt must finally get tough & challenge this. I have long said the UK cannot create prosperity off the back of dirty money. All of this is a massive national security risk.”

Financial crime

Serious questions are posed around the spread of Russian influence and money, with the UK viewed as a favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money, particularly through the purchase of property, where it would appear, they have been welcomed with open arms.

The Government effort on the disruption of Russian illicit financial activity in the UK is led and coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA).  Its work also encompasses the investigation of UK-based professional enablers in the financial and property sectors, with the aim of hardening financial and property markets from the proceeds of crime, and challenging any perception that the country is a safe haven for illicit funds.

The NCA’s work includes the ability to obtain Unexplained Wealth Orders in relation to anyone who is a politically exposed person or someone who is involved in serious crime. The Orders were seen to act as a deterrent; however, the findings show they may not be useful in relation to the Russian elite with the Intelligence and Security Committee stating their concerns the impact this work is having on the NCAs limited budgets.

The NCA called for changes to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, stating that their efforts are being hindered. The demands include incorporating serious and organised crime as grounds for introducing sanctions and providing for Closed Material Proceedings to protect sensitive intelligence.

The Report   Government response

Tackling economic crime

Propertymark sits on the Economic Crime Strategic Board which was formed in early 2019 and pushed for action to be taken on improving the system of checks and effectiveness of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARS). Property is often seen as a gateway to money laundering and educating our members on their money laundering duties and requirements to perform due diligence has been a high priority.