What you should do if you or someone in your business notices something suspicious through working in property.

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Property professionals are the gateway to investment in housing - a desirable means for criminals to invest ill-gotten gains. 

What is the regulated sector?

Professions deemed to be at the highest risk of being used by criminals to launder money are covered by the Money Laundering Regulations 2007. These impose higher requirements than those in place for other businesses, such as requiring firms to put systems in place to avoid money laundering and to report suspicious activity.

Those businesses that are within the regulated sector are generally those that deal with the flow of money; however, estate agents are also included within this sector (although letting and managing agents are not).

If you are in the regulated sector

Those within the regulated sector are required to report suspicion of money laundering. If you're within this sector you must report suspicious activity as soon as possible to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), even if you decide not to go ahead with the transaction.

If you are not within the regulated sector

Other professionals, including valuers, have slightly different requirements to those within the regulated sector. If you're outside of the regulated sector and notice that a client is acting suspiciously, you must first decide whether or not you wish to proceed with the transaction. If you decide that you do wish to proceed, you may be guilty of an offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act if your client has used criminal assets as part of the transaction. A defence under the Act is to submit a suspicious activity report (SAR) and seek permission to undertake the transaction. Even if you're not required by law to submit a SAR, you should still consider doing so as part of your professional ethical obligations.

All companies

All individuals must report suspicion of terrorist financing where they suspect this is taking place.

Making a SAR

You can use a SAR to report suspicion of money laundering, terrorist financing and other less serious crimes such as fraud or financial crime. For crimes less serious than this, you should report to your local police.

Information on how to make a SAR is available from www.soca.gov.uk. The website includes a portal for making SARs and information on how to complete the form. SOCA's preferred method of receiving SARs is via the online system, although there is also a form you can download and complete by hand.

Once you have made the report, you should keep the number of people that you tell about it to a minimum. You must not inform the person about whom the SAR has been made, as this may constitute 'tipping off' - an offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

SARs Review and Feedback 2012 – Estate Agents

SOCA has put together a report for the estate agency sector designed to raise awareness of the kinds of trends and issues which have been identified from SARs submitted over the past year. RICS members can download the document below.

Reporting intermediaries to the FSA

RICS supports the FSA and CML initiative for the reporting of mortgage fraud where intermediaries are involved. The FSA has set up confidential routes for lenders and valuers to report, on a voluntary basis, suspected cases of mortgage fraud involving intermediaries. Receiving similar intelligence about the same intermediaries from lenders and valuers will help the FSA to build up a picture and tackle organised fraud by preventing rogue intermediaries from operating.

View the FSA Intermediary Fraud document and Information on how to report.

Reporting to RICS

If you have suspicions about another RICS member you can speak to a member of staff - confidentially if you wish - on the Regulation helpline 020 7334 3867. You can also email information to regulation@rics.org. If your information relates to a criminal matter, we will generally advise you to report it to the appropriate authorities, as we cannot undertake criminal investigations.

Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) reports

The report below from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) provides case studies and statistics about the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) reported over the past six months. The information is designed to help individuals submit SARs which are properly targeted and help UK agencies tackle organised crime. 


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