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Searches ‘very rarely the cause of delays in transactions’ claims industry group

An umbrella body representing search organisations says searches “are very rarely the cause of delays” in transactions.

The Council of Property Search Organisations says recent statements from the government about moves to make house buying less stressful and more transparent suggest that it recognises “the positive contribution made over many years by private sector search companies to the benefit of home buyers and sellers.”

“The government findings vindicate what we have been saying for some time now’” claims CoPSO chairman James Sherwood-Rogers, “that searches are very rarely the cause of delays.”


He says that when  a search is slow to come back, it is invariably the local council where the problem lies. “Of course, it is also important that conveyancers order their searches as early as practicable” he adds.

“We are pleased that the government announced in the response document that it now expects local authorities to turnaround a search request within 10 days and grant reasonable access to personal search agents, but given the problems that we have had over the years in getting access to council data, we believe the government needs to provide clarity on what ‘reasonable access’ means” says Sherwood-Rogers.

CoPSO has called on government to stipulate local authorities should give access to data to regulated personal search companies in a time frame that matches the turnaround for their own searches, and in any event no greater than seven working days.

“Unfortunately there are a handful of councils with a track record in limiting public access to their records. It is often the same councils who take weeks to turnaround searches and have high charges. It’s time to end this postcode lottery by ensuring a level playing field and providing genuine” insists Sherwood-Rogers.

  • Rob Hailstone

    Part of the problem is that some clients don't want their searches ordered until other issues have been resolved, i.e. their mortgage offer is in etc. They don't want to risk losing their money if the transaction aborts for some reason. It is that late ordering that can cause a delay at a most crucial time.

  • Peter Ambrose

    Ummm ... Not exactly sure how near the front line an "umbrella organisation" for search companies is, but why not have a chat with some agents and lawyers in the west country and central London.
    To say that searches don't delay deals is a little generous.
    Rob is bang on the money (as usual) but in our direct experience as a company that is actually doing the work, doing a few hundred searches per month, I can definitely vouch that there are delays caused by staffing issues at local authorities - lack of funding doesn't only impact potholes and libraries ....

  • Steve Davies

    In response to Robs point, there is a solution for clients who do not want to order searches until other issues have been resolved. I operate both a search company and an estate agent and both businesses provide abortive transaction insurance which can refund fees paid in the event of a failed transaction (through no fault of their own). In response to Peters point and as a board member and former CEO of IPSA (The Association of Independent Personal Search Agents) it is the government response which says that "There was a strong sense from these responses that the position regarding property searches had generally improved over the last few years, partly due to the efforts of private search companies" It is of course a fact that a small number of restrictive councils cause delays, however the vast majority of private searches are returned within one week. Clearly these "rogue" councils which can take weeks to respond to search requests also impose delaying restrictions on the private sector and I for one welcome the action which govt has indicated (provided they actually follow this through, unlike previous rhetoric)


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