Following a letter from DEFRA to Local Authorities and a Statutory Instrument issued yesterday named “The Local Land Charges (Amendment) Rules 2010” the costs to personal search agents have fallen.
Announcing the changes Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, said "Moving home is difficult and stressful, and the new Government wants to make it easier. We’ve already taken steps to scrap Home Information Packs, and now we are cutting the cost of researching the detail about your new home.
This shows in practice how freeing up public sector data and opening up the books can benefit the whole economy, by cutting transaction costs and increasing competition."
In a recent discussion with Richard Mathias of National Search Services he explained “The Government has today said it is revoking the £22 personal search fee by amending the Land Charges Rules 1977. This will take effect from 17th August but Local Authorities are advised to stop charging with immediate effect.”
He went on to say that “Over the last 10-15 years Local Authorities have played cat and mouse with personal search companies by restricting appointments and introducing unfair charging regimes. At NSS we have prospered despite these barriers and many law firms have taken up the opportunity to run a NSS search franchise so that they are in control of their own search provision.
Now the government has levelled the playing field we anticipate a significant number of new enquiries from Law firms who can capitalise on providing their own searches rather than relying upon 3rd parties.
With effect from today personal search agents should get completely free access to the data required to complete LLC1’s and Con29. This will enable us to effectively compete with searches provided by a local authority without the need to rely on insurance”
Ronnie Park of One Search Direct described the changes as momentus and "good for consumers, good for conveyancers and good for personal searchers who could demonstrate quality", he went on to say he was delighted by this change.
The guidance issued today has come as result of a cross industry campaign coordinated by Richard Mathias, including the industry bodies COPSO and IPSA and some of the national search providers such as STL and York Place. Together they have argued that search data was environmental information that should be provided free of charge under the Environmental Information Regulations. The Information Commissioner has endorsed this view in several cases recently and now the Government has stepped in to clarify the situation and hopefully to bring an end to Local Authorities over charging for these services.
Alan Thorogood of STL has explained that already some Local Authorities are starting to object to and are seeking to find alternative ways of charging for this data.
Whatever happens for those conveyancers that use personal searches there is a chance that their personal search agent may pass on some of the reduction in this disbursement to them.