Property Searches Unavailable In 24 Council Areas

Property searches are currently unavailable in 24 council areas and some have introduced new charges for providing information remotely to search providers.

The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) has praised the majority of local authorities and councils for maintaining search continuity despite offices closing and people working remotely.

CoPSO has claimed that less than 8 per cent of searches have been adversely impacted by Covid-19 with the majority of councils maintaining a high level of business continuity. In the majority, these departments have adapted, offering electronic communication to disseminate information.

However, a small number of council departments are refusing to send information via email, insisting that search agents visit offices and breach social distancing advice.

CoPSO has also found evidence of councils increasing or introducing new charges during lockdown in order to provide online services. One council has been found ‘restricting access to search agents’ in order to promote its own commercial search company.

A CoPSO statement has insisted that they have written to the Competition and Markets Authority in relation to the financial changes to services during lockdown and will consider publishing a list of councils flouting governmental movement restrictions.

James Sherwood-Rogers, Chairman of CoPSO, said:

“The vast majority of searches are ordered via a search agent and we are delighted that in over 90% of cases CoPSO members are able to serve their customers without any problems. Indeed, our request to councils to provide searches via email has been widely met and we want to thank all those councils who have made this possible.

“However, it is frustrating that there are some councils who are forcing search agents to make unnecessary journeys, at a time when the rest of the country is doing everything they can to protect the NHS and save lives by reducing journeys and staying at home where possible. The government guidance is clear on the matter.’

“Local Authorities must act within the law and not use this crisis to flout competition rules and increase costs for home movers, especially at a time of so much uncertainty for home movers and the wider housing market.” says JSR

‘We will do everything we can to reduce the risks to our members and the wider community by persuading councils to provide information electronically during the crisis’ James said. ‘Whilst most councils are working very effectively with search agents across the country, there are a few who appear to be seeking to benefit from the situation, or to cause problems for access, rather than doing what they can to resolve them.

‘Where a search is not currently available, Search Code members have very strict guidelines about what insurances can or cannot be provided to ensure that the Search remains fully compliant with Lenders Handbook and Legal Regulations. If you are acting in one of the affected areas, ensure the product you are buying is fully compliant with the Search Code to avoid issues further down the line.’

2 Comments

  • test

    We need to name and shame those that are, intentionally or not, choosing to make decisions that favour in their own commercial activities over that of the rights to citizen access. Cheshire East, City of York and Flintshire Council’s to name three. To be clear both Cheshire East and City of York previously printed a piece of paper which people could attend their offices to view and copy the information down on to their own piece of paper. They are refusing to email this piece of paper. This morning West Berkshire Council join this small list, charging £75 for an LLC1 and refusing to provide alternative (electronic dissemination) arrangements for citizen access to data. Shameful. Thankfully these Councils are in the minority.

    • test

      Update on this, following making representations to West Berkshire, they are now making the data available electronically and working to clear the back log. Sadly, Cheshire East and City of York are not even willing to acknowledge emails and explain why they are not able to adapt their service to meet their statutory obligations.

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