Have Personal Local Authority Searches Improved?

There has been a rise in the number of personal search companies which many attribute to the Home Information Pack industry though some are gaining poor reputations; is this justified and is it fair that the whole industry is tainted in the same manner?

As a Home Information Pack Provider; at the outset we sourced a reliable personal search company to provide our local searches rather than provide official local authority searches as standard, as the quality of the search is to a very high standard. This remains our policy though developments in the search industry must be concerning for those within the industry and one could question whether it is really ‘fair’.

Recently, personal search companies where held to task about not providing information where available and the regulations were tightenend and clarified in areas. It certainly wasn’t ideal, an industry based upon providing information on property, with many search companies not providing it, as it would incur them a cost and instead they would rely on mandatory insurance in place.

This loop hole helped bring the rise of ‘cheap HIP providers’ who were scrimping on search costs i.e. utilising the cheapest search provider, who you could almost guaranteee would not of even attempted to gain the information. We were given access to a number of these inferior searches and it was frankly ‘shameful’ the way some had been completed and no wonder nobody wanted to rely upon the contents.

However, in April this loophole was closed and the widespread belief amongst quality providers was we would see the cheapest HIP providers raise their fees, as they would no longer be able to disregard the quality of the searches and discount the HIP packs. This has happened to some degreee but not to the extent many had anticipated and prompted us writing ‘Beaware of budget HIP providers‘.

It is evident that in some quarters personal search companies are gaining a bad reputation but is this not comparing the worst and not the best with their competition, the ‘official local authority search’. We supply and have contact with many conveyancers whom are consistently pleased with the quality of the personal searches we supply within our HIPs and they do not ‘insist’ on an ‘official’ search as those anti personal searches often ‘cry’ they do.

However, as with most areas there are those who try to cut corners to make more short term profit. Unfortunately, it seems to be the case with some personal search companies based upon reports we have received and read over the last few months.

We have been told about a number of cases where:

  • some agents are still obviously not gaining the required information from the council departments and not buying full data sets from the councils
  • some search agents are making statements which in affect places arbitrary restrictions on the search results. This can include (but is far from extensive); only searching back to a certain date or utilising search information gained from neighbouring properties.

We understand that a number of professional bodies are taking a closer look at this including PCCB and AHIPP who will not only look at HIP compliance but the searches contained within them. Where an official local authority search is submitted, a personal search will be sourced in order to compare the responses and vice versa.

The personal search industry bodies, The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) and The Association of Independent Personal Search Agents endeavour to raise standards both within their membership and the industry and one can only hope that those knowingly flouting the regulations are dealt with in the appropriate manner. They certainly seem to have their work cut out as they are also trying to deal with ‘local authority’ practices that they deem unfair.

For now it seems that some budget HIP providers will turn a blind eye to the fact ‘their search provider’ is not meeting the ‘required standard’ as they are cheaper than quality search companies that do, which enables them inturn to provide cheap HIPs.

As one says, its not rocket science….. if a HIP provider is providing information at a lower cost than the actual raw data costs there is something a miss somewhere. What you will actually receive as the local search element within your completed Home Information Pack could quite possibly be questioned. If something seems as if it is too good to be true it normally is.

We have always taken great pride in providing a high quality product and service and NEVER aimed at being the cheapest as some do, which undoubtedly gains them instructions.

Personal searches can be carried out to a very high standard if undertaken correctly. What can be done to further ensure that this is done as a matter of course and not out of choice?

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