Regulations mean that you have to prove who you are if you are a new client of a solicitors firm undertaking a property transaction such as the purchase of your home or commercial premises. You may even have to do so if you are an existing or former client of the solicitors but they have not acted for you for some time.
Unfortunately professional advisers and businesses like solicitors and banks are attractive targets for money launderers – criminals who try to hide the proceeds of their crimes as legitimate income or assets rather than holding them as cash or as bank deposits with no identifiable legitimate source. Because of this the government introduced measures to make it more difficult for criminals to make and keep the proceeds of their crimes and, when those crimes are discovered, to confiscate those proceeds. For this reason there are compulsory checks which solicitors have to make to assist with this process before they receive any money from those clients
Am I under suspicion?
Being asked for identification does not mean you are under any suspicion whatsoever; the identification requirements apply to all clients when they ask solicitors to act for them in connection with transactions which have a financial element.
What will I have to do?
The regulations mean that you will have to produce to us some personal documents to show who you are and where you live. This would be likely to be one of the following, namely your passport, driving licence or, if you have neither of these, proof of receipt of state benefits such as a letter from the Job Centre or DWP. You would have to prove your home address by producing a recent gas, electricity or other household bill or bank statement, whichever document you produce being no more than 3 months old. We need to see original documents and cannot simply receive electronic or photocopies from you
But I don’t live near your office so cannot easily bring those documents to you!
That’s not a problem. What you will need to do is take the available documents to a solicitor who has an office close to your home and s/he can take copies of them and certify them as true copies of the originals and then you or the other solicitor can send them on to us to be placed on your file. Those certified copies are all we will need to fulfil those particular rules. Be aware that the certifying solicitor is likely to make a small charge for their services: you should check what this will be when you make the appointment to see him/her.
Having proved who I am now you want to know where my money is coming from!
Yes, I am afraid so. Another requirement solicitors have to fulfil is to satisfy themselves that the money is legitimate. Imagine you have stolen some money or have a lot of cash from selling drugs. All the time you have it as cash questions could be asked about its source. Consequently what money launderers want to do is convert that cash to something that looks more legitimate like a house. For this reason your solicitor will ask you to supply a copy of a bank statement showing that you have held the purchase price of the house, or however much you are contributing to it, for at least three months. If the money has not been in the account for that length of time then we might want to see evidence of where it has come from, for instance the proceeds of sale of another property or a legacy from a deceased relative. Furthermore if the money is being gifted or lent to you by someone else then proof of identity and of the source of the funds will be required from them as well for the same reasons.
What a lot of hoops to jump through just because of other people’s criminal activity!
Yes, all this is rather a hassle I’m afraid but the reasons for it are well founded: criminals must not be allowed to get away with introducing the proceeds of their crimes into the legitimate property market and damaging it for honest buyers and sellers like you.
If you would like to discuss any of this further then do get in touch with Julian Gill who will be pleased to help.