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Many UK agents not yet compliant with anti-money laundering rules, research suggests

The property industry in the UK is not up to speed in terms of being compliant with anti-money laundering regulations, new research claims.

A significant number of businesses in the property sector would struggle to pass an anti-money laundering (AML) spot-check with 22% without a dedicated AML officer in place, according to the research from identity verification firm Credas.

It also says that sales and lettings agents spend an average of four days per month completing anti-money laundering checks and almost a third are still using paper based storage systems which is not sustainable in the long term.

‘Since the introduction of the directive in June last year, the industry has had little support or guidance on how to implement the required checks. I feel for these businesses because of the extra administrative burden, but unfortunately, as it stands they could be breaking the law by not having an AML officer in place,’ said Rhys David, Credas chief executive officer.

‘Anecdotally, agents were given until December 2017 to get their AML officers and processes in place. Yet, our research has found that many estate and letting agents may not be considering the options available to solve this issue,’ he pointed out.

‘More importantly, the penalties they could face due to noncompliance. This directive is now in place and as a sector we have to manage it, so now is the time to act before you get caught out,’ he explained.

On average, those surveyed estimated that the time taken to complete AML checks took over four business days per month, with one of the main barriers to completion being cited as getting hold of clients.

‘Four working days per month is a long time to spend on these AML checks. We estimate that if the process was streamlined, it could save businesses an average of 313 hours per month,’ David said.

‘2018 looks like it will be a year full of new challenges for the property sector, so the ability to free up time means that estate agents can spend more of their time doing what they’re good at, marketing and selling properties,’ he added.

He is urging estate and letting agents to get their businesses in order. ‘It is more than six months since the AML directive was implemented, yet our research shows that unfortunately many businesses would fall foul of the law if they were spot-checked,’ he pointed out.