Last year the government announced its intention to introduce a public register revealing the owners of overseas companies buying property in the UK. It has just announced plans for that register to be introduced and to go live by early 2021.
According to the announcement, since 2004 it is believed that more than £180 million worth of property in the UK has been brought under criminal investigation as the suspected proceeds of corruption. As such the government wants to improve transparency in the market in order to protect its integrity and reputation.
The proposed register will require overseas companies that own or buy property in the UK to provide details of their ultimate owners. Last year's consultation on these proposals (summarised in our update Property ownership by overseas investors) and the recent debate on the topic in the House of Lords indicate that those who do not comply with disclosure requirements will not only face criminal sanctions but will also lose the ability to sell the property or create a long lease or legal charge over it.
The details of the changes should soon become clear as the government intends to publish a draft bill this summer and will introduce it to Parliament by summer 2019. The ultimate aim is for the register to be implemented by early 2021.
During the recent debate in the House of Lords some disquiet was voiced about the time being taken for the register to be implemented. However, it was noted that the register would be the first of its type in the world and it would affect people's rights. Overseas owners of UK property, however, will no doubt welcome time to digest and adapt to any changes.
We will provide further updates as and when information becomes available.