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Combatting Money Laundering
New and detailed amended rules to combat money laundering are in force
As a result professional advisers must ask more questions and in some cases require more information and documentation from clients before they can accept instructions to act or advise.
We will need to ask for more information in connection with acting for companies, partnerships, trusts, other bodies of people (such as clubs) and anyone who is acting as agent for another person. We may also need to go through the identification and verification procedures for shareholders, directors, managers, partners, trustees, beneficiaries, club members, anyone acting under a power of attorney, a receiver, administrator or insolvency practitioner or anyone appointed as an agent or broker of any kind.
In addition, the exemption under the old rules for existing clients from the procedures for identification and verification has been removed.
As a matter of policy we operate the new rules in relation to all clients and all matters.
All we ask is that you attend at our offices with
- your passport or picture driving licence
- an original council tax, gas or electricity bill addressed to you and dated within the last three months
For Data Protection Act purposes, we must also advise you that we are required to retain this information for at least five years.
Improving the Home Buying and Selling Process – April 2018
The Government’s plan of action
1. Buying and selling a home is acknowledged to be one of the most stressful events a person will experience, often considered alongside other major life changes such as marriage, divorce or having a child.
2. We believe that improving consumer understanding of the process and making it more transparent are key to improving the experience.
3. Further Estate Agent Regulation: Estate agents are currently regulated through the Estate Agents Act 1979 and enforced by a small national enforcement team, the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team. They have the power to issue warnings and banning orders to rogue agents, and approve customer redress schemes. There is currently no minimum professional standard requirement in order to operate as an estate agent, unlike our plans for letting agents. We believe that introducing a requirement to hold a professional qualification backed up with a programme of Continuing Professional Development would professionalise the industry, improve service and reassure consumers. This builds on our consultation to strengthen consumer redress in the housing sector. We will:
• work with the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team to strengthen enforcement of the existing regulatory framework for estate agents with a focus on ensuring all agents comply with consumer protection regulations;
• launch a consultation on creating a mandatory professional qualification for estate agents following engagement with industry and regulators; and
• post-consultation, evaluate the responses and consider introducing legislation where appropriate to ensure all estate agents are suitably qualified.
4. Referral fees: Referral fees are paid by conveyancers or mortgage brokers to estate agents in exchange for recommending business to them. We want to create more transparency surrounding referral fees so customers can make an informed choice and feel they are being treated fairly. We will:
• work with industry to standardise the presentation of referral fees and ensure that customers are made aware of any potential referral fee before they make a decision whether to purchase;
• task the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team to proactively monitor the disclosure of referral fees; and
• look more closely at the case for banning referral fees, particularly for new build properties and instances when buyers are being referred.
5. ‘How to Buy’ and ‘How to Sell’ guides: The government will develop and publish guides on ‘How to Buy’ and ‘How to Sell’ which will complement our existing guide on ‘How to Rent’ and planned guides on ‘How to Let’ and ‘How to Lease’. These guides will ensure customers are better informed of the process and know what to expect throughout. We will:
• develop and publish ‘How to Buy’ and ‘How to Sell’ guides; and
• consider how the guide is distributed, for example making it a standardised part of estate agency engagement in the same way the ‘How to Rent’ guide is with letting agents.
6. Choosing a conveyancer: We want consumers to be able to make a more informed choice of conveyancer which considers service levels, not just price. Currently when selecting a conveyancer, home buyers and sellers often rely upon recommendations from friends and family or referrals from estate agents. We will:
• work with industry and consumer groups to develop solutions using more transparent data, standard metrics, kite marks and quality standards; and
• include advice on points to consider when choosing a conveyancer in government guides on ‘How to Buy’ and ‘How to Sell’.
7. Buying a new build home: A 2017 report found that 98% of new build buyers had reported snagging issues to their builders since moving in.7 This is an unacceptably high proportion. Completion dates are often pushed back by developers with little notice, leaving buyers in limbo. We will:
• improve the process of dealing with buyer complaints, informed by the findings from our consultation on strengthening consumer redress in the housing market.8
8. Making moving day better: On moving day buyers are often left sitting on driveways waiting for keys to be released from the estate agents. This is not only frustrating for buyers, but also affects moving companies and their workers, who are forced to wait around and then work late into the day, costing consumers millions in extra fees. We will:
• work with removal firms, conveyancers and lenders to see how the process around the release of funds can be improved.
9. Reducing time from offer to completion
10. The average time from offer to completion in England and Wales currently stands somewhere between 8 to 12 weeks, with around 40% of buyers and sellers stating it took longer than expected to buy their property.
11. We know that the longer the process takes between offer and completion, the more opportunity there is for buyers and sellers to get nervous, which can lead to people pulling out and in some cases, a whole chain of transactions collapsing.
12. We believe that a quicker process would reduce stress for consumers, and also reduce the number of failed transactions. Making more use of digital technology and getting buyers and sellers to provide more information up front is key to speeding up completions.
13. Ultimately, we see no reason why the home buying and selling process should be so lengthy. We want to work with consumers and industry to improve and redesign the process so it takes weeks rather than months.
14. Better technology: In the long term we want the process to be enabled by the wide range of technological improvements which are already speeding up other aspects of our lives. We also want to encourage digital innovators so that they can use their skills and expertise to transform the process. In the short term, we want to work with industry and other public sector bodies to encourage the development of digital signatures, improve the ID verification process and promote the adoption of e-conveyancing. To do this we will:
• establish a technology working group to engage users, industry and partners such as HM Land Registry to better understand user needs for new digital technology and stimulate innovation;
• task the group to prioritise work on digital signatures, improving and streamlining ID verification processes, and promoting the wider adoption of e-conveyancing; and
• work with innovators to explore routes to market for technological solutions.
15. More information up front: One of the reasons why the current process takes so long is that buyers (and their lenders) need to be satisfied that they have all of the information they need in order to proceed with their purchase. This information can take considerable time to assemble, and we believe this process should start much earlier. In the long term, we believe that most of the information consumers need to know about a property should be available when the property is marketed, for example through the development of a property passport. However, in the short to medium term we will use our ‘How to Sell’ guide to:
• encourage sellers to collect together relevant information (e.g. planning permissions, certificates for works done, previous searches) in an effort to be ‘sale ready’.
16. Earlier contact with freeholders: We already know that transactions involving a leasehold property take on average 2-3 weeks longer than transactions involving only freehold property. This is due in part to delays in receiving property information from the freeholder or managing agent. This is unacceptable. We will:
• set fixed time frames and maximum fees for the provision of leasehold information, potentially with a statutory underpinning, and encourage managing agents to make this information available electronically to enable instant access;
• work with industry to standardise the leasehold information form; and
• use our ‘How to Sell’ guide to encourage sellers to have early contact with their freeholder.
17. Speeding up local authority searches: Although response times to search requests have improved considerably over recent years, they still vary considerably between different local authorities. Lengthy waits can add weeks to the time taken to buy and sell. We will:
• write to all local authorities to set an expectation that they should respond to search requests within 10 working days and allow timely access for external search agents; and
• take action against authorities if they fail to meet these expected performance levels.
18. Getting a Decision in Principle: A Decision in Principle is a certificate from a mortgage lender setting out how much money they will lend to a buyer. We believe that all non-cash buyers should obtain a Decision in Principle before they start house hunting, and we know that many estate agents already ensure that prospective buyers have a Decision in Principle before they are able to view or make offers on properties. We will:
• make it clear in our ‘How to Buy’ guide that buyers should seek a Decision in Principle early in the process.
19. Reducing failed transactions
20. Over a quarter of all transactions fail costing hundreds of millions a year to consumers and causing undue stress to both buyers and sellers. Over 65% of all buyers and sellers are worried whether they will make it to completion following an offer being accepted.11 Government is particularly interested in the introduction of reservation agreements to address this problem given that a high proportion of buyers and sellers have expressed an interest in up front legal commitment. This will help to reduce the fear of gazumping.
21. Reservation Agreements: Reservation agreements are contracts which increase commitment between buyers and sellers earlier in the process, providing more certainty and reducing the risk of gazumping. These agreements are already used in some high value transactions but their use is not currently widespread. However, BEIS research, supported by the responses to the Call for Evidence, showed that buyers and sellers would be willing to use them. We believe that making use of these agreements a more common part of the process will reduce the rate of failed transactions and the fear of gazumping. We will:
• work with industry to develop a short standardised reservation agreement which can be used in any transaction;
• commission some behavioural insight research in order to consider ways to encourage consumers to adopt these agreements; and
• pilot these agreements with aim of making them a standard part of the process.
Did you see the Panorama programme on BBC 1 on 9th August?
If you do not have a Will you need to know what to look out for so why not pop in for a chat.
Link to the programme at www.bbc.co.uk/i/tfqqj
see the ICO web site and basic steps. Many small businesses and landlords and charities do not yet realise and how they are affected and all the data they are holding. seehttps://ico.org.uk/media/1624219/preparing-for-the-gdpr-12-steps.pdf
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We have gained our reputation by providing high quality advice and services to businesses and individuals across this country and abroad. We meet with our clients personally and visit local business, residents and other organisations or meet at our offices.Wide knowledge as solicitors combined with specific expertise in varied property related matters of all kinds enables us to prepare and help clients plan when representing clients in transactions and developments. Experience over 40 years equips us to deal with the 'problems' that for many clients are only once in a lifetime encounters.
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