The Council of Property Search Organisations today reacted angrily to findings from an investigation carried out by Birmingham Trading Standards into HIPs and property searches contained within them.
During the investigation, officers went into 15 estate agencies and asked to see the HIPs for every property. They randomly selected six from the 15 and subjected the local searches contained in the document to detailed inspection. Five out of six were labeled “unsatisfactory” and found to contain missing or inaccurate information.
Responding to the findings, Mervyn Pilley, Chief Executive of CoPSO said:
“I welcome the rigorous approach taken by Birmingham Trading Standards to ensure that estate agents and HIP providers are taking their responsibilities seriously and complying with the law in full. As the trade body representing responsible and professional operators we have nothing to fear and everything to gain from such public scrutiny.
“There has been an explosion of new entrants offering HIPs and local searches, often without training and seldom registered under the Search Code. This is the kitemark which estate agents, conveyancers and consumers should look for to guarantee that they will receive a professional, accurate and complete product. Sub-standard products produced by non-registered firms are simply not acceptable and give the whole industry a bad name.”
CoPSO has developed the Search Code governing the activities of its members. All CoPSO members must be signatories to the Code which sets certain minimum standards and provides guidance to members on compliance. Compliance with the Code is assessed regularly by an independent regulator, the Property Codes Compliance Board, which also provides consumer redress in cases of non-compliance or where errors are made by registered firms.
Mervyn Pilley concluded:
“Whilst there can be no excuse for misleading or inaccurate information being included in a HIP or property search, the fact remains that if local authorities provided full and open access to data, consumers would not suffer in this way./ No-one disputes that the data exists, the key is whether the local authority allow a personal search company to view it in order to compile a search report. All too often we meet with outright refusals or restrictions on access. The consumer will only be well served when access to land data is available on request to any individual electronically at the touch of a button or within 24 hours of request. Until local authorities put their own house in order, disreputable firms will continue to cut corners.
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