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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.

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

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  1. Mrs Asma sayedMrs Asma sayed

    It’s been 20 days since my solicitor applied for my searches from Bedfordshire council and I’m still waiting. Everything is ready for exchange, yet I can’t still until these searches have come through. A truly frustrating waiting process.

  2. Nik LaneNik Lane

    I am in a small chain and the buyers buyer have waited and still waiting 6 weeks for local searches, Indemnity insurance is a no go, I have been informed by my solicitor unless these searches come back within two days we will miss the stamp duty holiday. Can i bill the offending council (Dorset) for the delay and the cost of £6600 stampduty for the delay?

  3. Alex BullAlex Bull

    Our Solicitor has just informed us that it is taking Canterbury City Council around 90 days to complete Searches!

  4. MichaelaMichaela

    We’re South Staffordshire & ours have now been put back until the 24th May which will be 16 weeks!!!
    So incredibly frustrating!

  5. Derek ODerek O'Dwyer

    We’re really struggling with Harrow Council – ‘late December’ has turned into ‘maybe in early February’ & we’re looking increasingly less likely to complete before the end of the stamp duty holiday in March. It really does stink.

  6. Mrs L C NichollsMrs L C Nicholls

    The buyers of my house have sent off for the local search and it’s the thing that is stopping us move when will we get it S668bg

  7. Adrian MeikleAdrian Meikle

    We’ve just been informed that our local search won’t be completed until January 2021 following sale agreed Sept 1st !! Somewhere around 135 days. Meanwhile we are paying full council tax and a fee for the service. Disgraceful

  8. Anona MooseAnona Moose

    Doesn’t help that local councils are themselves claiming turn around times of ‘X days’ when the reality is significantly different.
    D. orset council being one such in our chain holding everything up and jeopardising our move over 30 days. Vs our seller in hants who had searches back within 4 days

  9. Shirley EidmanShirley Eidman

    Been trying to purchase a property since end February! Appreciate this is a bad time and there are delays, but restrictions now lifted. Chased as contracts
    not yet exchanged told local authority searches were delaying exchange And solicitors agent not able to visit offices to do their own search!

  10. AnonAnon

    Camden Council hAve just informed my solicitor that searches will take at least 70 working days!

    I can’t imagine the number of house puchases that will fall through in that time.

  11. Craig LancasterCraig Lancaster

    We are buying a house under the Maldon District Council (Essex) and we received an email from our lawyers say that there local searches are taking up to 60 working days as there is only 1 person doing these searches. We were hoping to move in before Christmas but the way its looking we’ve been giving the 25th January.

  12. TonyTony

    What is going on at Maldon District Council??!! My search was applied for early in August and is still outstanding. I can appreciate a short delay due to staff leave and/or illness but to still not have my search returned is unacceptable

  13. Sarah SkinnerSarah Skinner

    My solicitor has currently been waiting over a month for searches to come back for NG33 4NE. It’s horrendous we need to have exchanged already for schooling etc.
    So disappointed, but what can be done?

  14. GreggGregg

    I will be calling Maldon District Council today, as I have been ready to move with no chain for two weeks. According to what I have found out my search was applied for 12th August. My solicitors are chasing the search. But not yet back.

  15. Lorna ParryLorna Parry

    Maldon District Council have still not completed the searches on my house which were submitted on 4th July 2019. It is now 24th September. Shame on them. A complaint will be lodged!

  16. SueSue

    Maldon District Council in Essex are currently advertising that searches will take 40 working days but it is more than that even!

  17. MikeMike

    Derby City Council is slow – waiting 9 weeks already!!!

  18. Dennis EdlinDennis Edlin

    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.

  19. John HarveyJohn Harvey


    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

  20. John HarveyJohn Harvey

    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.

  21. Fiona MosleyFiona Mosley

    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.

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