Why does my estate agent want a copy of my passport and a utility bill?
This is absolutely normal and we would be shocked if your estate agent didn’t check your ID. Because if they didn’t they would be breaking the law! Complying with money laundering regulations is a basic legal requirement for estate agents.
The Money Laundering Regulations, overseen by HMRC, ensure businesses at risk of being used for money laundering by criminals and terrorists have controls in place to minimise the risk of this happening. These businesses include Estate Agents.
The National Crime Agency has estimated that £100bn a year of corrupt foreign money is laundered through the UK, involving such things as luxury goods and property. The proceeds of this money laundering goes to organised crime gangs and to help finance terrorist activity.
An estate agent must be sure of who they are dealing with. To do this the agent must perform KYC (know your client) checks and require clients to confirm their identity as well as providing proof of their ownership of the property they are selling.
This can be done by the agent seeing and recording details of documents such as a passport or driving license as well as a utility or council tax bill - and where possible taking copies.
In the vast majority of instances the owners will be the people living at the property and so obtaining and checking their ID will be quite straight forward. However where the owners are not resident, maybe they live abroad, the agent will need to dig a little deeper and make further checks. For Companies or corporate sellers the agent will need to confirm details of the company and identify and verify who the major shareholders or directors are, as well as checking and identifying the ultimate beneficial ownership.
The agent is also required to re-confirm details of their clients every couple of years, if they are involved in ongoing business relationships. So don’t be offended if you have dealt with the agent before and they know who you are, when they ask to see your ID again.
It is a legal obligation on your estate agent to carry out checks on all their customers. So buyers, landlords and tenants can also expect to be asked to provide this information.
If your agent has does not ask to check your ID and confirm you are the owner of the property, then you should ask why not? If they are not abiding by this simple legal requirement, what else aren’t they doing?