The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO), the major trade association for the property search industry, has today welcomed proposals relating to speeding up and making available in electronic format the provision of information from local authorities to personal search firms, made in Sir Bryan Carsberg’s Review of Residential Property, which was released today.
Within the Review’s recommendations, it stated that ‘legislation should be introduced to require the holders of search information to provide that information rapidly and efficiently to all members who wish to have it, at a reasonable price, with the objective of electronic availability online as soon as practicable. The legislation should ensure that information holders compete fairly with private search companies’.
Commenting, Kate Nicholls, Head of Communications at CoPSO, said:
“We are very pleased that Sir Bryan has recognised the impact that local authorities delaying and restricting access to data is having on slowing down housing transactions. This, and his recommendation that the data should be made available electronically, echoes the findings of Ted Beardsall’s report for the Housing Minister, Caroline Flint, which was issued last week.
“Despite the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) announcing clear guidance in January this year that local authorities must make the data required to compile property searches available to ‘all those who ask’, and that data must be provided within 24 hours, this directive is being ignored by many local authorities across the country.
“If followed correctly the guidance should have created a level playing field for all search providers, enhancing personal search firms’ ability to produce searches, and ultimately HIPs, in a timely and efficient manner. It would also have positively impacted consumers, who would have benefitted from increased choice and faster conveyancing transactions.
“The CLG’s consultation on charging is on-going and it is imperative this is concluded and implemented as soon as possible, as currently a postcode lottery exists over charging, with it ranging from £40 to £280 dependent on local authority. It is in consumers’ interests to standardise these costs and we are pleased Sir Bryan acknowledged this in his Review.”
Ms. Nicholls did feel, however, that making HIPs voluntary, as Sir Bryan recommended, would be a backward step.
“Whilst the implementation of HIPs can’t be classed as a resounding success, the concept – to provide information up front for faster and better informed housing transactions – can’t be argued with. Rather than scrapping something that has great potential, we feel that it would be far wiser for all industry stakeholders to work together to make HIPs work. This will certainly involve agents who liaise directly with the public conveying the content and benefit of the packs to consumers in a more comprehensive and effective manner. As Sir Bryan stated, simple, transparent information for customers is a primary objective, and we are still of the view that HIPs can deliver this to consumers.”
Carsberg Review (PDF)
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.