Money laundering supervision for estate agency businesses

Find out about registering with HMRC under money laundering regulations if you’re an estate agency business.

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

Who must register

You must register with HMRC if your business carries out any work defined as estate agency activity.

Register your business if both of the following apply. You:

  • act on instructions from a customer who wants to buy or sell commercial or residential property in the UK or abroad
  • introduce your customer to a third party who wants to buy or sell a property in the UK or abroad

Estate agency activities

These include things like:

  • sending out property details and arranging viewings
  • offering personal advice to potential sellers or buyers
  • answering questions from potential sellers or buyers
  • 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 don’t need to register:

You don’t need to register if you’re:

  • a lettings agent only carrying out lettings work
  • 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 consider the possibility of a single supervisor overseeing the anti-money laundering arrangements. Supervision for individual businesses will be looked at on a case by case basis.

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

Additional guidance

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

The guidance explains what businesses must do to protect themselves from the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing and how to report suspicious activity.

What happens if you don’t register

You may receive a penalty if you don’t register a relevant business. This includes carrying on business as an estate agent:

  • without being registered
  • after your registration has been cancelled

The amount of the penalty will depend on each individual case. We’ll 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 and how 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 don’t need your registration to continue then you should notify HMRC.

If you don’t 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 the role of the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team and whether you need to join a property redress scheme.

Published 2 April 2014
Last updated 14 July 2017 + show all updates
  1. Guidance updated to include businesses that act on behalf of clients
  2. 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.
  3. Content reviewed and updated to simplify the registration process.
  4. References to 'fit and proper fee' have been removed from the table in the 'fees' section.
  5. Money Laundering Regulations new fee structure and charges from 1 April 2015.
  6. First published.