Government calls on councils to make property searches easier and cheaper


Government calls on councils to make property searches easier and cheaper

Antony Savvas

The government says it expects local authorities to lend greater help to the public for completing computerised property searches.

New measures to help deliver faster and cheaper property searches for homebuyers have been published by the government.

Councils and private search companies will be expected to work together to improve the quality and speed of providing property searches to homebuyers.

Local authorities should now aim to provide access to their data within one working day to private search companies. In return, they will be able to recoup their costs by setting a "fair charge" for improving access, said the government.

The changes to property search delivery are the latest step in the government's reforms to improve consumer experience of the home buying and selling process.

The government said search provision is improving but there can still be wide variation across the system - the best providers can provide it within hours, but the worst ones can take two weeks, whilst charges range from £40 to £280.

At present, private search companies are often unable to access council data, so they must take out insurance cover for any gaps.

Ensuring all providers have equal access to the data not only removes the need for insurance cover, but means the provider's focus can be on giving consumers the best property search service at the lowest possible cost, said the government.

The changes follow recommendations made by the Office of Fair Trading to improve competition between the public and private sector in the delivery of property searches to consumers.

Junior housing minister Iain Wright said, "By levelling the playing field for providers, consumers will be able to get important property information earlier in the home buying process and see the costs coming down as a result."

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