Guernsey linked to thousands of UK property ownerships

THE legal ownership of thousands of properties in the UK has been linked to Guernsey by new research.

As of August more than 11,000 UK property titles were registered to a Guernsey correspondence address, with 862 in the City of Westminster alone.(30209023)
As of August more than 11,000 UK property titles were registered to a Guernsey correspondence address, with 862 in the City of Westminster alone.(30209023)

The Centre for Public Data said it had obtained previously unpublished data from HM Land Registry of England and Wales, via freedom of information requests, showing that 11,594 property titles – which could include homes, commercial property and land – were registered to individuals with a Guernsey correspondence address as of August this year. That compared with 3,783 in January 2010.

Thousands of these properties were in London, with 862 in the City of Westminster alone as of August of this year.

Overall, 247,016 titles across England and Wales were now registered to individuals with an overseas correspondence addresses – nearly 1% of all registered titles, said the CFPD.

This had more than doubled since 2010, when such individuals owned around 0.4% of titles. Three-quarters of the titles were registered to individuals with addresses in just 20 countries and jurisdictions.

In August 2021, 51,866 titles were registered to individuals with addresses in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia while 18,869 were linked to the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Meanwhile, 47,323 titles were registered to individuals with addresses in Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and the British Virgin Islands.

English-speaking countries were another key group, with 33,751 titles linked to the US, Ireland and Australia.

As of August 2021, 18,493 titles were registered to individuals with a Jersey correspondence address – up from 6,125 as of January 2010.

The growth in titles registered in English northern cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Salford and Leeds had also been notable, particularly since 2016, said the CFPD.

Guernsey-based bank and mortgage provider Skipton International said the ownership of properties in England and Wales by non-UK citizens was borne out by its current statistics. In addition to the local market, it also specialises in mortgages for the UK buy-to-let market.

In October alone, Hong Kong residents accounted for 39% of all Skipton’s UK buy-to-let offers. Singapore and the USA also featured heavily.

‘The UK is viewed by many as a solid, stable jurisdiction and many global investors are looking to the UK residential market.

‘In 2019 we extended our UK mortgage proposition to include applications from non-UK nationals overseas, but we are now seeing steadily increasing activity from not only British expats, but also other nationalities,’ said Skipton International’s mortgage sales manager Lorraine McLean.

The CFPD said that the titles of property showed the legal owner, but not the beneficial owner. Titles owned via a trust may be registered in the names of the trustees but the beneficial owners could be elsewhere.

Anna Powell-Smith, the CFPD’s founder and director, said that her organisation advocated for better data to inform better policy making and that housing suffered from data gaps.

An overseas address also did not necessarily mean the property owner was non tax resident in the UK – but did indicate they expected to based overseas to a significant extent.

They could potentially be an overseas investor or second home buyer, said the CFPD, and as such it was a ‘reasonable proxy for non-residence’.

It recommended action to improve data around housing – including HM Land Registry publishing statistics on overseas individual buyers annually, with its Scottish equivalent having published similar data since 2017.

‘It will clarify the demand from overseas buyers, and its geographical concentration, enabling better analysis of the effect that such purchases have on the availability and affordability of property,’ said the CFPD.

It also recommended that the UK government should ‘urgently’ proceed with plans to implement a public register of the beneficial owners of property in England and Wales owned by overseas companies.

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