Councils Struggle To Meet Residential Land Search Deadlines

Councils Struggle To Meet Residential Land Search Deadlines

Around 15% of councils are struggling to meet property search expectations. In some lucky cases, a search can take as little as a day; however, there have been cases of a 95 day wait for a completed search.

Researchers from Move IQ analysed the figures from the 326 English local authorities and found a huge disparity in the compulsory cost and time attached to searches. Unbelievably, there is a 658% difference between the most expensive charge of £333 and the cheapest at £44.

78% of councils charge over £100 per standard residential land search with 25% charging over £150 for charges that can take a matter of minutes to complete.

Whilst local authorities are supposed to complete searches in ten days or less, 15% are failing to achieve this deadline. Only 12% of councils are able to complete this task in under three days. Stratford-Upon-Avon took the longest time to complete searches at a staggering 93-day average, whilst councils are able to turn their searches around in a day at a cost of only £44.

Phil Spencer, Property Expert and Co-founder of Move IO, said: “The Prime Minister has pledged to fix what she herself describes as Britain’s broken housing market, yet our research reveals that councils across the country are adding needless delays and expense to the home buying process.

“Conducting a standard search can take minutes, but just eight councils were able to turn around a search request in a day and a disgracefully high proportion of councils are failing to meet the Government’s 10-day target.

“Whatever the individual councils’ reasons for the delays, such as a lack of resources or lack of staff, it’s clearly unacceptable to force buyers to wait up to three months for what should be a routine process. Then the arbitrary fees charged by different councils have created a postcode lottery where a search in one area can cost seven times more than it would in another.

“At times the process of buying a home can seem stacked in favour of sellers rather than buyers. In the current market, buyers need all the help they can get, and councils should be made to end this unjustifiable red tape minefield with a cap on fees.”

How significant are residential land searches in the home completion process? Are these delays a huge factor in the overall completion time? What should be done to improve this process?

Martin Parrin

Martin is a Senior Content Writer for Today’s Conveyancer, Today’s Wills and Probate, Today’s Legal Cyber Risk and Today's Family Lawyer

Having qualified as a teacher, Martin previously worked as a Secondary English Teacher that responsible for Head of Communications.

After recently returning to the North West from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, Martin has left teaching to start a career in writing and pursue his lifelong passion with the written word.


  • The Land Registry’s initiative to bring technology to local searches has, I believe, encouraged some councils to review their use of this in providing answers to additional enquires

    Is anyone promoting the data-basing of information to do this on a national basis?

  • “78% of councils charge over £100 per standard residential land search with 25% charging over £150 for charges that can take a matter of minutes to complete”..

    The statement above is incorrect. The fees stated relate to a FULL official search which is comprised of an LLC1 AND CON29. The cost of £150 is for full search and not just the Register charges. Charges are a small part of a search. The more expensive part is the Con29 and that’s what the figures stated in the article refer too. Not just the Register but the Con29 also. Clearly the person who wrote the article needs to understand the basics of what a full local search is comprised off.

    Yes 78% charge over £100 because it relates to both parts of the search. The more expensive section is the Con29. The charges are for the LLC1 but the rest is the Con29. Charges do not take a matter of minutes to obtain for many authorities. If you have a large development with legal agreements, planning decisions and all manner of other charges – it can take a few hours to collate this information and check it. The Con29 still needs to be done.

    Local authorities have to charge for searches based on cost recovery. They have to cover their expenditure. If one authority charges £65 for a full search and another £150 – then that is down to the expenditure of the department. No council is the same!

    To add to this – recent research showed that less than 1% of conveyancers had issue with the turnaround time for searches. We are focusing on the wrong areas.

    Anyone will know who has recently purchased a property that searches are a small part. Even then, local authorities will receive a call from the purchaser asking why the search is taking so long after being told this by their solicitor. Yet every time – for many authorities – the search was returned some time ago. Waiting on the local search is a common term used – when in fact the solicitor is not in any rush to speed up the process.

    The article is misleading because the costs detailed relate to a full official search and not just a Certificate of the Local Land Charges Register search.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.