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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7 Responses to “Have Personal Local Authority Searches Improved?”

  1. Working in a Land Charges section in a large authority I can confirm that none of the personal search agents who carry out personal searches buy full data sets from the authority. In fact the only questions asked are normally 1.1 f, g, and h.

  2. As a Land Charges manager for over 10 years every day I see persoanl search agents cutting corners:

    Only one personal search agent inspects the Compulsory Purchase Order file, which is provided free of charge, therefore Con29 question 3.11 must be guessed “No” by the other agents.

    It isn’t the only Con29 question personal search agents guess either, just to save time and money. Even agents that claim to comply with the Search Code!

  3. To be fair it’s a very gray area about where some of the more pro active search Companies get their information from as it doesn’t all have to come from the LA direct, there are many ways of gaining the information legitimately.

    Unfortunately there obviously will be some who are just guesssing but what is even scarier is that some are/have been operating without the correct specific search insurance since April!

    Due to a poor communication staement from CLG before the April changes came into effect many search agents thought that they couldn’t have this Insurance any more when in fact they just couldn’t rely on it for missing information.

    Incredibly the PCCB didn’t instigate any ongoing auditing specific to the changes ( really quite large changes as well!) and members are only audited at renewal, so any search agent who joined around Feb/March and not conforming could carry on supplying non compliant searches with NO Insurance for nearly a year before anybody realises the mistakes being made!

    Everyone should take a close look at their search provided to check it conforms to schedule 6 ( and 7 ) of the HIP regulations and not take any blanket assurance of quality for granted!

  4. Have they improved? you are joking, they are worse than they ever were. We say but do you not want this information if it is for a HIP, they say, not now i must pay for it.

  5. Juansearcher Says:

    I worked for a major supplier of personal searches/ HIPs and was, alongside most of my colleagues, disgusted the way we were “ordered” to cut corners by or managers/directors obtaining various info to cut costs. This was blamed on other companies doing the same and we had to compete to keep the business…(More profit for Directors – GREED -was the real reason I’m sure) I saw many other companies doing the same as I knew and worked alongside them and would say the majority of searches returned were probably inaccurate. I’m so glad I no longer have to lie for a dishonourable company anymore. I would never allow a personal search company to provide a search for any future house moves as I know from the inside what would be missed.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with ‘Juansearcher’. I worked for a long established PS supplier for over 3 years & was also disgusted in how we were forced to cut corners & be dishonest to clients. Often giving completely false info & charging for extra searches that weren’t necessary,using previous results from neighbouring properties & basically encouraging people to buy extra things that they did not need. When people asked for the more expensive chancel searches, the lower rate one was ordered and passed off as the more expensive, more accurate search. The list of dodgy thngs they did were endless and yes it was purely GREED driven. Having reported them to TS,OFT & the Police, to my utter disgust and amazement, no one would do anything about it & I was told I could actually be arrested for persuing the matter!
    Like the above ex PS worker, I would NEVER trust a Personal Search from a Personal Search Agent ~ the company I worked for carried out work on behalf of many other Agents and vice versa, & it was pretty shocking to realise how bad these were across the board. The councils were demonised by the company I worked for, but I found all councils I had dealings with to be professional, helpful, knowledgeable & honest & I would much rather trust the info they provide directly rather than to ever trust such an important thing to PS Agents.

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