A trade body has reported some council search departments to the government for refusing to provide email details and forcing search agents to have face-to-face meetings.
The number of transactions has of course fallen markedly but the Council of Property Search Organisations says fewer than eight per cent of search requests in recent weeks have been affected by Coronavirus restrictions, and property searches have continued to be available in all but 24 local councils.
“However there are some local authorities that have refused to email information to search companies, insisting instead that search agents still have to visit their offices” claims a CoPSO statement.
“The vast majority of searches are ordered via a search agent and we are delighted that in over 90 per cent of cases CoPSO members are able to serve their customers without any problems” says James Sherwood-Rogers, the body’s chairman.
“It’s 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” he continues.
CoPSO has now written to the Competitions and Markets Authority and to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to complain about those local councils not supporting the movement restriction guidelines, and says it may publish a ‘name and shame’ list of them.
In addition it is unhappy that a small number of authorities have increased or introduced new charges for providing search information during the Coronavirus crisis.
“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 Sherwood-Rogers.
He adds that there are only 24 councils currently unable to produce a search at all, due to the closure of an office holding essential records.