The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill includes reforms to Companies House, making it a more active gatekeeper over company creation. Anyone who registers a company in the UK will need to verify their identity, to help prevent the use of companies as a front for crime or foreign kleptocrats.
New powers will give Companies House more teeth to check, challenge and decline incorrect or fraudulent information and allow it to cross-check data with public and private partners, as well as reporting suspicious activity to security agencies and law enforcement.
Registration and transparency requirements will be tightened to prevent the abuse of limited partnerships created for money laundering and other nefarious purposes.
One of the stated objectives of the bill is to support enterprise by enabling Companies House to deliver a better service for over four million legitimate UK businesses and investors. The reforms also aim to ensure that business, consumers, and the public are protected from fraudulent use of their identities and addresses.
Companies House Chief Executive Louise Smyth welcomed the measures outlined in the latest bill, the biggest upgrade in 170 years, and said that it would enable them to play a much stronger role in making the UK a great place to do business.
“If agreed, these changes will allow us to actively improve and maintain the integrity of the register like never before; inspire greater trust in our data, crack down on economic crime and further drive confidence in the UK economy,” she confirmed.
Law enforcement will also be given the tools to compel businesses to hand over information which could be related to money laundering or terrorist financing, and red tape around confidentiality liability will be eased.
It will also be quicker and easier for bodies such as the National Crime Agency to seize, freeze and recover ‘dirty money’ in the form of cryptoassets – the digital currency increasingly used by organised criminals to launder profits from fraud, drugs and cybercrime.
At the time of writing, this bill has reached the Committee stage which means it will be subject to detailed examination. If it successfully completes all stages and becomes law it will follow on from an earlier economic crime bill, fast-tracked through Parliament in March 2022 in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The current government aims to strengthen the fight against economic crime at a time when inflation has accelerated to 10.1% in the 12 months to September 2022. Rising living costs continue to hit households, with food prices seeing the biggest hike since 1980.
Back in May, Barbon CEO Andy Halstead revealed the extent to which tenancy application fraud is on the rise, with over 50,000 suspicious applications flagged in just 12 months.
Barbon, which includes Rent4sure, HomeLet, and Let Alliance, is the UK’s biggest tenant referencing company.
An increase in rents and the cost of living crisis are just two of the factors helping to intensify pressure on household budgets, Halstead warned. “Unfortunately, this could mean that some tenants present a higher risk. Add rising fraud data into the mix and the situation becomes a perfect storm,” he said.
HomeLet’s latest Rental Index data for September 2022 shows the average rent in the UK is now at £1,159, up 9.2% from the same time last year and 1.4% from last month’s figure.
Agents are advised to help mitigate the risks and protect their landlords by using high quality, trusted referencing checks from a professional partner.
Andy Halstead said he wanted to reassure agents that Barbon brands continually optimise their checks, mixing technology with highly experienced teams: “It’s amazing the lengths some people go to commit application fraud but as the fraudsters try different things and get smarter, or at least think they do, we’re here fine-tuning our methods exactly as we need to so we can keep on protecting our customers.
“Referencing tenants is the first line of defence and our experience, expertise and procedures help keep everyone safe.”
To find out more about Rent4sure’s quality checks and in-depth tenant screening, contact us today on 0330 088 3774 or click here.