There’s been a dramatic improvement in the speed of searches being completed and returned by local authorities, the government claims.
Housing minister Heather Wheeler says that last year she wrote to all local authorities saying that extensive search delays were unacceptable to the government, which wanted to speed up the house buying process across a number of fronts.
She gave them a target of a maximum of 10 working days within which to complete and return search data.
Now she has told a conveyancing conference: “I’m pleased to see that, based on the latest data, more than 80% of local authorities are hitting this target. The quickest can turn searches around in under a day. Now that’s what I call progress.
“I think the chance to live in the house of your dreams shouldn’t depend on which authority it happens to be in.”
But she warns that there are still unacceptable delays, especially where leaseholds are concerned.
“Having a leasehold property in the chain can add at least an extra week, due to difficulties getting information from freeholders and managing agents. As it stands, there aren’t any guidelines around the provision of this information, leaving leaseholders at the mercy of freeholders, who can charge whatever they like and take as long as they like” claims Wheeler.
She says the government is about to set out a recommended timetable and standard fees for providing this information.
“This will also include a fee to update this information.”
Her comments to the annual conference of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers comes as HM Land Registry is continuing with its Local Land Charges digitisation programme.
Last year the Registry worked with the councils at Blackpool, City of London, Liverpool and Warwick to switch from manual to digital searches, making the enquiries much faster to handle.
HM Land Registry says that by the end of March - so little over two months from now - a total of 26 councils including the four already on stream will have digital searching facilities.
However, it says the full roll-out of its Local Land Charges register across the entire UK could take up to seven years.