UK Adopts Beneficial Ownership of Foreign Property Law

On March 15, 2022, the United Kingdom adopted the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act of 2022 (the “Act”). The Act is lengthy (and this summary is qualified by reference to the entire Act) and imposes a sea change in the disclosure of the ownership of foreign property in the United Kingdom. Among other things, it requires legal entities owning qualifying UK property and registrable beneficial owners thereof to register with the Companies House which will then maintain a register of such entities and owners. The Act only applies currently to freeholds in the United Kingdom, leases of more than seven years in England and Wales and leases of more than 20 years in Scotland. Registrable beneficial owners are those holding or having a vote of more than 25%, those with the right to appoint or terminate a majority of the board or those with “significant” control. There are exceptions, and lenders and sellers to overseas entities will need to be careful as well. The Act may cause a major change in the manner in which property is bought and sold by overseas entities in the United Kingdom, especially in places like London and its environs.