Overseas Property Owners Could Face Criminal Charges

May 2017

According to recent published proposals, the Government may make it a criminal offence if foreign property owners fail to update a register.

Under the proposals, any existing owners of overseas-held properties will have a year to supply details to the register. Held by Companies House, the register will have to be updated at least once every two years.

For those who fail to keep their information current, the Government will consider criminal charges.

According to the Government, the reaction to the new paper was positive, with ‘a high degree of support for the general principle of requiring the information about the beneficial owners of overseas companies that own property.’

Those overseas entities wishing to buy property in the UK would have to register their beneficial ownership information with Companies House which would allocate a registration number. Companies House will charge a fee for the service but would make the register available free to view.

The register will show:

  • An individual's name
  • Year and month of birth
  • Nationality
  • Country of usual residence
  • Service address
  • Nature of their control over the company
  • Date when they became a person with significant control
  • If there are any restrictions in place on disclosing any of the particulars.

Sean White, conveyancing specialist and Senior Partner at Courtyard Solicitors with offices in Wimbledon, South West London and Totnes in Devon commented: “these proposals would increase the amount of work needed in a conveyancing matter by a non UK company and therefore costs.  As it would relate to companies who already own property in the UK it will impose an immediate burden on them and there are problems that they, as non resident, might not be aware of the new requirements.

“Whilst there is an obligation to disclose who controls the company and provide their details this does not necessarily mean that they are actually “in control” as they may hold the shareholding in trust for someone else” added Sean.

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