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Are delays in local searches jeopardising your move?

When you’re buying a home, local authority searches are an essential part of the process. Here we look at how long searches should take and recent reports of staggering delays.

May 1, 2019

Local searches are a vital part of the home buying process. They tell you about important local information relevant to the area the house you are buying is in. For example it will tell you whether you’re buying in a conservation area which could impact your planned renovations and whether a new housing development is planned in the field you thought you would have uninterrupted views over. Searches need to be completed before you can exchange.

Way off target

Last year, Housing Minister Heather Wheeler wrote to all local authorities – which conduct the vast majority of local searches – saying that extensive search delays were ‘unacceptable’ to the government.

She gave local authorities a target of a maximum of 10 working days within which to return the searches – and the government claims there has been significant improvement since.

But according to Property Industry Eye this week, Derby City Council is said to be taking 44 working days – nearly nine weeks – to issue searches, causing all kinds of complications and a massive spike in fall-throughs of house purchases. As a result, local businesses are due to meet in Derby this week in a bid to work together to push the council to improve.

Research into the length of time it took to get local searches back by Move iQ in October  last year painted a similarly dire picture. Stratford District Council was named the worst offender at the time, with searches taking up to 95 days. Other poor performing councils included Wyre Forest which took 40 days, and Rochford, Herefordshire and Epping Forest taking 25 days to return local searches.

Here at the HomeOwners Alliance we hear it’s a mixed bag out there. We have members in Sevenoaks, Kent being told they will have to wait 5 weeks to get  local searches back while in Teignmouth, Devon you can expect to wait just 2 days.

What’s being done about this postcode lottery?

Not an awful lot because according to the government, it’s all hunky-dory.

In January this year, Estate Agent Today quoted the Housing Minister saying she was: “… pleased to see that, based on the latest data, more than 80% of local authorities are hitting this [10 day] target. The quickest can turn searches around in under a day. Now that’s what I call progress.”

Are you buying a home? How long did it take to get your searches back from your council?

Comment below or email hello@hoa.org.uk

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4 Comments

  1. Derby City Council should be refunding the charges for local searches until they reach the targets. Our sale searches were requested in the first week of February. They returned the second week in May. Complaints to the Council Cabinet fall on deaf ears. They are not interested in the chaos they are causing.

    Comment by Dennis Edlin — May 21, 2019 @ 7:26 pm

  2. Fiona

    Before instructing a conveyancer ask them if they use software which only requires information such as address, names and title number to be entered and checked only once

    When I acted for my wife on the sale of her late mother’s flat the buyer’s solicitor wrote saying that as an “unqualfied person” (wrong actually – I was an exempt person) she would have to check everything I did in a letter headed with the wrong address for the property.

    I copied it to her client who sacked her.

    .Conveyancers (particularly solicitors) can be too mean to invest in technology and have blind faith in precedent. They believe that they cannot go wrong if they do what they did before and use paperwork from previous cases – frequently without picking up on the necessary dfferences

    Comment by John Harvey — May 5, 2019 @ 12:44 pm

  3. The Land Registry operates a system for supplying property title information which deserves high praise

    Its recent blog “Looking Back on 2018/9” states

    “Despite higher intakes, 21 million search and official copy applications (99%) were completed within 2 working days”

    This is the result of investment in technology which benefits home movers. Since HIPs were abolished, there appears to be no overall government iniative to apply LR’s approach and acheivements to all aspects of the information collation needed to make property transfer work as it should.

    Local land charges are being transferred to LR but the information about local council matters needed when buying a property is far wider than this.. And it is not necessarily databased for rapid extraction.

    The government should be promoting infrastructure investment to match the standards of LR.

    Comment by John Harvey — May 5, 2019 @ 12:14 pm

  4. Our searches questionnaires to owners were sent to the correct address but were about the wrong property, in the wrong town. Luckily the owners spotted it as they were asked questions that didn’t make sense such as about log burners and the road being unadopted, neither of which applied. This delayed things by another 2 weeks.

    Comment by Fiona Mosley — May 3, 2019 @ 9:24 am

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