Local authority searches - Transitioning Towards Digitisation

Published by GlobalX on Oct 18, 2019

Property searches are an essential element to a successful home buying and selling process. Completed competently, they have the ability to uncover unsavoury property or uncover truths which could protect the buyer. They also create a full and transparent picture, enabling the buyer to make a fully informed decision.

Despite the importance of property searches, the sector has been blighted in recent times with inconsistent Governmental approaches, unacceptable delays leading to increased fall through rates and inefficient working processes.

However, searches in England and Wales are transitioning, modernising and beginning to consider the consumer journey. Whilst conveyancers have grown accustomed to a delayed process, digital data could ensure information is instantaneous in the future. Unfortunately, the UK is not quite there…yet.

Transitioning Towards Digitisation and Improved Efficiency

Local land charges and official local authority searches are currently transitioning into modernity; a feat many conveyancers will find long overdue.

Local Authorities have faced overwhelming criticism regarding the inconsistencies in delivering searches and the costs associated with them.

Move IQ analysed the figures for the searches carried in 2018 by the 326 English Local Authorities earlier this year, finding huge discrepancies and variances in approaches, time scales and the amount charged for the service.

Staggeringly, the research found a 658% difference between the cheapest and most expensive search with prices ranging from £44 to £333.

Although central government recommendations suggest all searches should aim to be completed and returned within 10 working days, 15% of local authorities were failing to achieve this target. One local authority was even averaging 93 days which places home moves at risk of falling through.

Delays to this vital service still permeate into contemporary searches. Meetings were held in Derby during the summer between Derby City Council, estate agents and solicitors after turnaround time scales for searches were taking between 17 to 19 weeks.

Agents were complaining that too many sales were falling through because of these persistent delays.

This is an issue HM Land Registry has been looking to rectify for the past year by migrating Local Land Charges search data and creating a digital system which would create instant access to data, alleviate time delays and inefficient service structures.

In the past year, HMLR has fully migrated six local authorities to the digital service. Once migrated, local authorities are able to provide fully digital and instant results to their searches.

Unfortunately, migrating data that may be over 45 years old has proven to be a time-consuming process. The fact that the information is stored in a variety of formats slows the migration down further. Whilst HMLR hoped to have migrated 20 local authorities by the end of 2019, once completed the service will provide a rich, efficient and speedy data source to consumers.

Despite this opportunity for instant data, HMLR has experienced resistance from a number of local authorities who remain reluctant to adapt their processes. Whilst it may be some time before a fully digital system is operational, delays to official local searches may soon be a distant memory.

The delay in local authority searches is one of the reasons Regulated Local Authority Searches have risen in popularity. Regulated or personal searches are conducted by search providers like us by sending researches out to the local authority and gathering the data directly. They tend to take less time as its in the search agents best interest to return them as quickly as possible to compete with other providers.

As a leading provider of conveyancing searches in England and Wales, GlobalX can help provide efficient, fast and trusted search information. For draining and water searches, environmental searches, land registry searches, mining searches, miscellaneous searches and flood reports, our thorough and fast service will ensure the home buying and selling process is fully informed whilst avoiding harmful delays.