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Conveyancer names and shames councils for delays in local searches

A conveyancing firm is blaming councils for delays in transactions.

Conveyancers have themselves been sharply criticised in recent weeks as the sharp rise in transactions has led to delays in transaction processes.

Ten days ago a trio of conveyancing bodies warned estate agents they should manage clients’ expectations about the speed of transactions, and bluntly told agents that submitting queries on conveyancers’ progress would add further to delays.


Now Simpson Miller - a law firm with offices in eight locations across the UK - has spent time analysing the speed of local council search operations.

It says Melton borough council in Leicestershire has been taking 42 working days on average to process a search. This was the longest delay of any of the 228 local authorities that replied to the law firm’s Freedom of Information requests in England or Wales. 

Melton council told the law firm the delays were a result of exceptional circumstances and did not represent the normal or intended turnaround time.

Tameside metropolitan borough council in Greater Manchester and Chelmsford council in Essex both took an average of 35 days to process and complete the searches, followed by five councils taking 30 days, and a further eight taking over 20 days.

However, four local authorities take just 24 hours on average to turn around a search, and a further 62 require five days or fewer.

A statement from Simpson Miller says: “Insight from the FOI request responses shows that across the country, Local Land Searches were up 18 per cent in August 2020 compared to August 2019. 

“The local authority with the biggest increase in search requests was Calderdale in West Yorkshire, which saw a 365 per cent increase. This was followed by Halton Borough Council in Cheshire, which saw a 255 per cent increase; and Newark and Sherwood District in Nottinghamshire, which had a 203 per cent increase.”

Simpson Miller’s enquiries show the ‘worst’ councils as Melton in Leicestershire (42 days) followed by Tameside and Chelmsford (both 35), then Hackney in London, West Lindsey in Lincolnshire, Bridgend in south Wales, Wealden in Sussex and Wiltshire county council (30 days each.) Harrogate in Yorkshire takes 27 days and Torridge in Devon 26.

Of those local authorities with the shortest waiting time for a search query, according to Simpson Miller, the ‘best’ were Dartford in Kent, Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, Wakefield in Yorkshire and Bolton in Greater Manchester - they all took just one day.

Arun and Crawley councils in West Sussex, Spelthorne and Elmbridge in Surrey, along with the authorities in Cardiff and South Gloucestershire, all took just two days on average.

The Simpson Millar conveyancing manager, Sean Jones, advises buyers to get their finances and mortgage in order, get a survey done as soon as possible and be prompt with the return of paperwork.

On the subject of choosing a conveyancer he says: “As the conveyancing process can be a confusing topic for those not well-versed in the law, it’s important to choose an expert solicitor who has years of experience and has the time to take on your transaction. Do your research and find a Conveyancer that will work to your deadlines and remember that they don’t need to be local to work for you.”

And finally he warns buyers to “understand what you can’t change” and says: “Unfortunately, in the house selling and buying process, there are some things that are out of your control. If your move is delayed because of issues that are out of your control, then there’s not too much you can do. But it’s important to know what could prolong the process so you know what to avoid before you begin your property transaction.”

  • Rob Hailstone

    Apparently, North Norfolk District Council are planning a temporary closure of the local search facility from 12th Nov until 7/8th Dec 2020 whilst the planning systems are upgraded! The wisdom of doing this now, has been questioned.

  • Stephen Hayter

    Rob this reminds me of the the large Freehold Management company who, during the last SDLT frenzy, were getting so many phone calls that they decided to turn their phone system off for a week. I am sure that made a world of difference - and why should they care.

  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    If anyone would like to be added to our mailing list to be kept up to date with Search Timescales across the country, published each week, please visit our contact page on our website where you will find a quick sign up form. Property Searches Direct dot co dot uk

  • icon

    A phrase involving pots and kettles springs to mind.

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    did you stop reading after the first line Alan? LOL

  • Mike  Stainsby

    It is quite disappointing to see Estate Agents blaming Conveyancers who in turn blame Local Authorities. We are, after all, working in a global pandemic and seeing a 'perfect storm' of pressures being put onto the market described as 'not fit for purpose'. We should all be looking for solutions not wasting our energy pointing fingers! We are where we are! Sellers should familiarise themselves with boiler service agreements, FENSA certificate, extension building regs etc and put them somewhere safe. They should then order their Searches as soon as they go on the market because the content is property specific. A buyer, when found, can buy the Searches and the Vendor refunded in full. This simple change of focus could shave weeks if not months from an 18 week transaction. Or we could all sit back and let the inevitable happen. I have broad shoulders please tell me why I am wrong?


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