When you buy or sell a property, the estate agents, property lawyers or mortgage brokers all seem to want the same info from you before they’ll take you on as a client. Why is that?

What they’re doing is checking that you are who you say you are. If you're selling, they're also checking that the property is legally yours to sell. And, if you're buying, they're checking that the money is coming from a legitimate source.

It can seem like a real nuisance, but while you know you are who you say you are, your professional adviser doesn’t. And what’s more, they are under strict legal rules to carry out checks.

Providing the same details

Added to this is the fact that you have to give the same information time after time. Why can’t all they just talk to each other?

Trust us, they’re not trying to annoy you at a stressful time. They are separately regulated and the law makes them liable if something goes wrong. So they must take responsibility for their own checks, without relying on someone else’s. The legal guidance on this is very clear.

Fraud

In 2014 a company, Dreamvar, thought they were buying a property from a seller. Unknown to them, the seller was a fraudster who had got the driving and TV licence of the true owner and had them certified by a solicitor. It was only after the buyers had transferred the money for the property that they found they had been conned and the money was gone.

Sadly, this case is not unique.

Money laundering

Criminals also see property transactions as a great way of ‘cleaning’ the money they have made through crimes like people or drug trafficking. Buying a property enables criminals to launder large amounts of money in a single transaction.

Prove where your deposit comes from

As well as being able to prove you are who you say you are, you also have to show where the funds for your purchase came from.

Your funds could come from the sale of another property, savings, an inheritance or a gift from family or friends. Whatever the source, you have to prove where it came from.

For example, if part of your deposit is a gift, the person giving you the money will have to show how they got it. So, where the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ is often a big contributor in house purchases, parents will need to confirm the amount of the gift and how they got the money.

Checklist

A bit of planning goes a long way when buying property. Being prepared increases your chances of a smooth, quick transaction. It’s worth being aware of these checks in advance and getting the documents that you need at the start.

You will need:

  • Proof of ID, such as a passport or driving licence. A full list of official ID documents is available from the UK government.
  • Proof of your current address, such as a driving licence, bank statement, or utility bill (not more than three months’ old). A full list of proof of address documents is available on the GOV.UK website.
  • Proof of where your funding has come from. This could be your last three months’ payslips, a P60 from your employer, or a tax return and other documents if you are self-employed.

You can get more details about the documents you will need from the Money Advice Service. If some or all of your funding is coming from inheritance, you will need proof from the executors of the estate. If you have money coming from your family, you will need them to confirm that the money is a gift and that they have no rights over the property.

Remember, checking this information is a legal requirement to help keep you and your money safe. Failing to provide it will only slow down the transaction, so best to be prepared.

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