A leading industry body today said that Ted Beardsall CBE, Deputy Chief Executive of the Land Registry, had given local authorities a clear message to ‘reform or die’ in his report on Local Property Searches and Leasehold Information for the Housing Minister, Caroline Flint MP, published late last week.
Kate Nicholls, Head of Communications for The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO), the major trade association for the property search industry, said:
“Mr Beardsall’s report clearly clarified what is already common knowledge within the industry – that local authorities need to drastically reform their property search service offering, or face being squeezed out of the market by the faster, more cost effective and consumer focussed private sector.
“The report indicated that there has already been a 20 per cent shift in the proportion of local authority searches vs private sector searches over the past two years, from 65:35 to 45:55, and without immediate improvement, local authorities search services could be reduced to simply providing data to the private sector for them to compile searches.”
The report also looked into the potential of the electronic provision of local authority data.
“Embracing technology and storing local authority property search data electronically is absolutely key in speeding up the conveyancing process - it would be a major step towards true e-conveyancing. The one thing the report was missing, however, was a clear framework as to how this could become reality.
“The private sector has numerous automated systems in place that speeds up its ability to provide searches to consumers in a timely manner. Technological developments, however, appear to have been largely ignored by local authorities, with the majority of their data still stored in paper format. The future is electronic and local authorities need to start to embrace this change, or get left behind forever,” said Ms. Nicholls.
The report also touched on numerous recent topical issues affecting the search market.
“We were encouraged that the report stated that local authorities need to immediately implement recent CLG guidance in terms of access to data, and called for the CLG to conclude and implement their charging for data consultation as soon as possible, as well as offering a simplified solution for compiling HIPs on leasehold properties, an area that has been highly problematic due to overly complication regulation,” concluded Ms. Nicholls.
The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) is the leading trade association for the property search industry. Members provide a range of property information reports including local, environmental, chancel repair, mining, drainage and water data and produce over 2m searches each year. CoPSO’s overall objective is to drive both market and product improvements to deliver the industry’s vision of faster and better informed property transactions.
CoPSO has represented the search industry on the Ministerial Stakeholder Group on house-buying reform, a panel set up by former Housing Minister Yvette Cooper as a forum for discussion on HIPs progress and to identify ways of improving the home-buying and selling process.