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Government propose register of foreign-owned property

The Government is proposing to compile a new public register to list overseas property investors as a means of cracking down on money laundering and corruption.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which announced the move, the register will be the first of its kind in the world and will list the ‘beneficial owners’ of UK properties held by overseas entities.

The measure was first announced in May last year and has now reached the detailed implementation stage. According to the BEIS, the proposals should apply to both existing and new owners.

The definition of ‘beneficial ownership’ of property would be similar to that of the ‘person with significant control’ criterion in the company ownership register. It would include persons who have the right to exercise significant influence or control over a trust or firm that is not a legal entity.

Existing foreign property owners would have one year to declare their ownership to Companies House, which would hold the register and make it freely accessible to the public.

Meanwhile, overseas entities planning to buy UK property will first have to register their beneficial ownership information with Companies House. In either case the register would have to be updated every two years. Non-compliance with this requirement may constitute a criminal offence, although this is not yet definite.

Information recorded on the public register of foreign ownership of UK property will display the individual’s name, year and month of birth, nationality, country of residence, a service address, the nature of their control over the company, and the date on which they gained that control.

However, individual owners will be able to apply to have certain personal information withheld from public view to protect people who are ‘at risk of harm as a result of information about them being publicly accessible’.

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ELS Legal is an international law firm based in London with more than 50 partner offices across the world. As part of the Cathay Associates global legal network, we are the first choice law firm for a number of British businesses and overseas clients.

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