Local Authority Searches are no new thing for Conveyancers and those in the process of buying land or property, but they have changed so much over the years and have the potential to change even further over the next 5-10 years.
Official Local Searches were of course the norm prior to the booming housing market of the late 1980’s which is when a small bunch of intrapreneurs created the world of Search Companies that exists today. Back then of course Personal Searches were still being carried out, but generally by an office junior or an Article Clerk (as they were called) employed by the Solicitors firm. The Local Authorities were only too pleased to welcome employees from the local Solicitors practices into their offices and probably served warm tea whilst they relaxed and searched through their paper files.
Search companies were not so welcomed however and back in the 1980’s and 90’s it could be quite tricky for the Search Agents to gather all of the necessary data together and they often left the councils offices with partially completed searches (back then insurance was a must to cater for this missing information). The Search Industry fought hard to gain access to the necessary data sets to enable personal searches to stand shoulder to shoulder with their official counterpart, as they very much do today. It was not until the introduction of the new regulations in 2004 (Environmental Information Regulations Act 2004) which forced the Local Authorities to level the playing field and start sharing their data in a fair and equitable manner.
The search industry went one step further and decided to set up a Regulatory Body and wrote a Code of Conduct (PCCB (Property Codes Compliance Board) and the Search Code) by which all its members and search compilers/producers would live. The introduction of these two things gained the support of the legal industry’s own governing bodies and those of the UK Mortgage Lenders.
So here we are today with the search industry providing choice to its customers, in terms of speed, brand and price, helping its customers through the minefield of options and helping out in times of need when its clients are battling against hard deadlines.
Looking forwards and into the future, HMLR is starting their journey into the world of Land Charges, by attempting to digitise all charge entries across England and Wales by the end of 2025. If they are successful in achieving their goal, the process of building a Local Search will certainly be quicker and easier to complete.
This article was submitted to be published by Redbrick Solutions as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.