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Property searches – the nightmare continues

publication date: Jul 8, 2009
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Private search companies have an ongoing battle with certain local authorities that hold back information that can compromise the quality of property searches.

OneSearch Direct has told Propertydrum about the difficulties of dealing with certain councils. Search appointment times vary from two to 44 days and prices for access to local land charges information range from £6 to £48. 

The transitional insurance arrangements were also withdrawn on 6 April. This temporary measure was introduced to ensure that private search companies could continue to provide local searches within HIPs in instances where the local authority had a policy of preventing access to all information required. 

The withdrawal of this is a significant benefit to the legitimate end of the industry, as less scrupulous search companies that took advantage of this allowance (omitting search data in favour of “no answer” insurance) have been forced to provide more comprehensive, legitimate searches.

OneSearch DIrect supports this legislation as local authorities are now obliged to provide all the data - clearly the best result for the consumer. However, it is crucial that councils do not abuse their powers and implement disproportionately high charges for providing access to this public information.

The only way forward, say the search companies, is to bring the full force of the law down on both private companies that continue to use this insurance and councils that display anti-competitive behavior. The changes are welcomed and are well overdue. Weeding out the cowboy searchers and anti-competitive councils will guarantee industry best practice and a better deal for the consumer.

Grant Shapps announced plans to put the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) at the end of the home selling and buying process and then led a House of Commons Early Day Motion from the Tories, calling for legislation to permanently scrap HIPs. These actions are a retrograde step.

In an age where knowledge is king, the Tories are suggesting an elitist strategy. Should the HIP be scrapped, the cost of commissioning conveyancers, solicitors and inspectors to provide proper base level diligence before purchase is totally prohibitive and extremely costly. 

More has to be done to improve the current HIP, but to scrap it all together would be folly and an act for short-term political gain. The Tories have to suggest an alternative that provides home buying protection to consumers, and helps speed up the process. It is telling that no alternatives have been proffered.