Why is my conveyancer asking all of these questions?! Joanne Hayes residential property partner at WBW Solicitors explains our anti-money laundering procedures.

Property transactions have always been an attractive target for criminals who want to “launder” money they have made as a result of their criminal activity. This means that they try to turn the proceeds from their crimes into money which, on the face of it, appears to have been legitimately obtained. 

Property solicitors, therefore, have to be extremely careful to ensure that when they handle conveyancing transactions that they are acting in accordance with the anti-money laundering regulations. These measures are designed to prevent criminal activity and to protect you.

In order to comply with the regulations, we do need to ask our clients to assist us by providing us with identification documents and with details about themselves and the source of the funds they are using to buy a property. We call this process “due diligence”. When you initially instruct us you will be given a “due diligence questionnaire” to complete which asks you questions, designed to help us to obtain the information we need in order to comply with the regulations.

The sort of information we will need from you will include:

Identification documents  

We have to check that you are who you say you are and we, therefore, have to either meet with you and take copies of your documents or, if you do not live nearby, to ask you to have copies of your documents certified by another professional for example, a solicitor, chartered accountant (or some larger branches of the post office can also provide this service). 

Suitable identification documents are a current passport or driving licence (photo ID) and a recent utility bill or bank statement no more than three months old (address ID).

If you are selling an investment property or second home which is not your main residence then we will also need to see some documentary evidence which links you to the property because your address ID would not do that. Therefore we would also need a utility bill which is no more than three months old for the property you are selling.

Proof of source of funds

If you are buying a property we also need to ask you about the source of the funds you are using to buy the property, for example, is it from savings? The sale of another property? An inheritance? A bonus? or a cash gift?

If someone is giving you some money to help you with your purchase we would also need the same information from the person giving you the money i.e ID and information about the source of funds.

We are conscious that we do need to ask questions which may appear intrusive and we are therefore always grateful to our clients for their patience, understanding and cooperation in assisting us with this essential process which helps to prevent criminal activity and to make our property transactions as safe as possible.

WBW Solicitors has property experts in all of their nine offices across the South West. If you would like to discuss any aspect of a property transaction or just want some general property advice, please contact joannehayes@wbw.co.uk or visit our property page.