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Our lawyer Fiona McNulty explains why solicitors must always request current identification documents from clients when undertaking property transactions on their behalf
Identification documents cartoon
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Question: I am hoping to buy an apartment in London to save on commuting times. I have provided my solicitor with the details of the property and he has requested identification documents from me.

He is insisting that he has up to date identification for me even though he acted for me about three years ago and knows who I am. Why on earth is this happening?

Answer: You must not be offended by the request for identification documents. Your solicitor will be undertaking a property transaction for you and has to ensure that you are not engaging in any sort of criminal activity.

Money laundering and terrorist financing is a threat to our society and your solicitor is under a duty to comply with Money Laundering Regulations which apply to certain activities where there is a high risk of money laundering occurring.

The buying and selling of real property is such an activity. Solicitors must carry out client due diligence and monitor this type of work. Under the Money Laundering Regulations it is important for your solicitor to be able to identify you because money launderers often hide their identity behind nominees or corporate or trust structures.

As your solicitor last acted for you three years ago, any identification documents which you may then have provided will be out of date now and that is why your solicitor requires you to produce probably either your original passport or your photo driving licence together with an original utility bill confirming your place of residence.

Money laundering obligations place a huge burden on solicitors and your solicitor will dislike asking you for identification documents just as much as you are offended by his request, but it is absolutely essential that your solicitor complies with the Money Laundering Regulations.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors

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