Money laundering supervision for estate agency businesses

Find out if you’re an estate agency business who needs to register with HMRC under the Money Laundering Regulations.

It’s a criminal offence to trade as an estate agency business without being registered or after your registration is cancelled with HMRC for money laundering supervision.

Who must register

You must register with HMRC if your business carries out any work defined as estate agent business in accordance with section 1 of the Estate Agents Act 1979 if you act:

  • on instructions from a customer who wants to buy, sell or let an interest in land, in the UK or abroad, and introduce your customer to a third party who wants to buy, sell or let an interest in land
  • after such an introduction to secure the sale or purchase of the interest in land

Estate agency activities

These include things like:

  • sending out property details and arranging viewings
  • offering personal advice to potential sellers, buyers, landlords or tenants
  • answering questions from potential sellers, buyers, landlords or tenants
  • passing on details to customers
  • providing or arranging an energy performance certificate
  • providing a property valuation
  • providing a plan of a property and taking photographs
  • providing customers with a ‘for sale’ board that includes the estate agency business contact details

Businesses that must register

The types of business that must register are:

  • high street residential estate agencies
  • commercial estate agencies
  • online estate agencies
  • property or land auctioneers
  • land agents
  • relocation agents, property finders, private acquisitions specialists
  • a sub-agent providing estate agency services to a main estate agency business
  • asset management businesses that also provide estate agency services
  • business brokers or transfer agents brokering the sales or transfer of client businesses to third parties
  • social housing associations that offer estate agency services
  • letting or property management agents that offer estate agency services to landlord customers
  • construction companies (residential property builders) with a sales offices on-site, where they act or offer additional estate agency services other than the sale of their own construction properties
  • a solicitor’s property centre in Scotland

When you do not need to register:

You do not need to register if you’re:

  • an auctioneer already registered with HMRC as a high value dealer
  • publishing adverts or distributing information, for example in a newspaper
  • an intermediary, like an internet property portal for private sales, allowing private sellers to advertise their properties and letting sellers and buyers to contact each other (but only if you do nothing else covered by the general definition of estate agency work)
  • a solicitor carrying on estate agency work as part of that practice as a solicitor, and not as a separate business

An estate agency business may be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for another purpose, for example because they provide consumer finance or hire purchase services. In this situation HMRC and the FCA will decide if a single supervisor can oversee the anti-money laundering arrangements.

If you’re an appointed representative of a business that’s authorised by the FCA, then the FCA will not be your supervisor and you must register with HMRC.

What happens if you do not register

You may receive a penalty if you do not register a relevant business. This includes carrying on business as an estate agency:

  • without being registered
  • after your registration has been cancelled

The amount of the penalty will depend on each individual case. We will take into consideration:

  • whether you told HMRC that you’re not registered or HMRC has discovered it
  • your reasons for not registering
  • whether you have had any previous warnings or penalties

We may also take other factors into consideration.

When to register

You must register with HMRC before carrying on any activity as an estate agency business and pay the necessary fees.

Annual renewal

At the end of each registration period we’ll send you a renewal notice inviting you to renew your registration by paying the annual fee on all your listed premises. If you do not need your registration to continue then you should notify HMRC.

If you do not pay the correct renewal fee then HMRC may terminate your registration and remove your business from its anti-money laundering register.

Further information

You can find Information about whether you need to join a property redress scheme and the role of the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team, on the National Trading Standards website.

HMRC has published guidance for estate agency businesses on how to comply with their obligations under the money laundering regulations and related legislation.

More information is available about recognising and reducing risk of money laundering if you are an estate agency or letting agency business.

You can also watch recorded webinars to find out more about money laundering supervision.

Published 2 April 2014
Last updated 26 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. The date a letting agency business must register with HMRC in the 'Businesses that must register' section has been updated.

  2. Updated with information for letting agency businesses on how to register.

  3. Updated with information for letting agency businesses, to help them decide if they need to register for money laundering supervision.

  4. The 'what happens if you do not register' section updated to say that HMRC may take civil or criminal action.

  5. Guidance updated to explain who must register for money laundering supervision.

  6. Guidance updated to include businesses that act on behalf of clients

  7. This guidance has been updated to reflect legislation changes effective from 26 June 2017 and includes further information about the types of work and estate agency businesses who should register.

  8. Content reviewed and updated to simplify the registration process.

  9. References to 'fit and proper fee' have been removed from the table in the 'fees' section.

  10. Money Laundering Regulations new fee structure and charges from 1 April 2015.

  11. First published.