Data on the beneficial ownership of property and land

Think tank: Centre for Public Data

Author(s): Anna Powell-Smith; Amber Dellar

January 16, 2024

This report from UK think tank the Centre for Public Data looks at the trusts loophole for land ownership transparency in the UK.

This report explores the main loophole for land ownership transparency in the UK: trusts. It calls on the Government to treat trusts the same as it treats all other landowners. This would be fair and would limit the harms that come from not knowing who owns UK land.

Our answers to many socially important questions depend on us knowing who owns what land: can a house be built here? has the UK successfully frozen Vladimir Putin’s assets? who is responsible for the abandoned house on my road?

In England and Wales, if the land in question is owned solely by an individual or company, details of its beneficial owner – the person who controls and benefits from the land – are published by the Land Registry, so our questions can be answered.

But if a private trust is involved in the property’s ownership chain, the public (and sometimes even the police) cannot find out who the beneficial owner is – a lack of transparency that criminals can exploit.