Personal search agents lobby Europe over Land Registry plans.

Personal search agents lobby Europe over Land Registry plans.

Conveyancers will long ago have formed an opinion as to whether they are going to only use official local authority searches for their conveyancing due diligence or whether some or all personal local authority searches are acceptable to them from a risk perspective.
Personally over the years I have found inaccurate official searches more often that I have found inaccurate personal searches but I do recognise this is not everyone’s experience.
Land Registry is considering plans to collect and distribute the LLC1 and CON29 data themselves.  This move could threaten the personal search market that has innovated and grown over the last 10 years.
From a consumer perspective the Land Registry gives out a lot of data in an OC1 for £8 which is returned in seconds.  The present cost of a local authority search has fallen significantly due to the competition that members of IPSA and COPSO have brought to local authorities but given that an OC1 has about the same amount of data in it as an LLC1 and Con29 the price differential is stark.  A personal search can cost from around £69 with local authorities like Westminster charging £160 compared with £8 for an OC1 from Land Registry.
In terms of speed the Land Data (formerly known as NLIS) website states that an official local authority search is returned on average in 4.8 days via NLIS whilst personal search companies return the data in 5-10 working days typically depending on the local authority.  Land Registry returns OC1 data in seconds.
Clearly in this information age the way in which local land charge data is collated and managed is sub optimal for home movers.
The question is should Land Registry be considered to be the saviour?
IPSA (The Association of Independent Personal Search Agents) is a not for- profit trade association for personal search agents. It has over 140 member firms supplying personal local authority and private water and drainage searches to the conveyancing market.
IPSA Chairman, Christian Lister last week accepted a meeting request with European Commission Officials, and will fly to Brussels on Tuesday 17th January 2012 to provide a verbal and written evidence submission to update the Commission on current Land Registry proposals.
Land Registry is investigating the widening of its range of information services to include searches of the Local Land Charges Register and other information currently supplied by local authorities. Christian will also update the Commission representatives on the current UK position regarding data access and data re-use under the Environmental Information Regulations and the Public Sector Information Regulations.
Christian commented, “Land Registry has created an information void by missing deadlines for statements and unclear intentions for the proposals. IPSA will not sit back and wait for our members, many of them small businesses, to be placed in jeopardy. We have always preferred action rather than reaction and the Commission know this.
A spokesperson from CoPSO said “As CoPSO has previously stated publicly, we would always welcome open competition in the market place — as long as this is set within a level playing field.  As a public body, the Land Registry is bound by the usual provisions of the Competition Act and the requirements for open tendering. While the Land Registry’s exact intentions are still not entirely clear, we look forward to entering into further conversations in the months ahead.”
Nick Small of Pali Ltd one of the members of IPSA said “In my last comment on this subject I ended by saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. The Land Registry is exploring the possibility of collecting all the information held by local councils which is used by them and private search companies to produce local searches used in conveyancing, holding it centrally and providing their own searches. One has to ask “why?” when this service is already provided by private companies. Local councils also provide searches but one has to know which council covers a given property to request the search whereas companies such as Pali will do that for you. There are at least four problems that spring to mind. 1) How does LR obtain the information required to compile a search? In most cases it is not computerised but held in hard copy by various departments of councils. Planning , Highways, Building Control Etc. 2) To be saleable the information would need to be computerised. Who would do this? How much would it cost? Who would pay? 3) They stand a chance of destroying a lot of small businesses. Are they prepared for the damages claims that would ensue. 4) This information is governed by the Environmental Information Regulations and access must be provided free of charge at any reasonable time at a place provided by LR. How many places would be provided? Where would they be? Does this pour too much vinegar on their chips? Answers on a postcard please. I am sure Christian has a few more questions to take to Brussels with him. We wish him well.”
Today’s Conveyancer believes that Conveyancers and the public deserve a much faster and cheaper service than the market presently delivers.  It isn’t about official v personal it’s about using modern technology effectively and unfortunately the structure of the present data provision in this market appears dysfunctional. Most Local Land Charge Departments appear unwilling or unable to support the tax payers who are seeking to move home in an effective way.  This causes unnecessary stress in a process which should be simpler.  Personal search companies have created competition and improved the performance of Local Land Charge Departments but the present market shape isn’t creating better outcomes and needs review.  Local Land Charge data should be stored effectively and delivered in seconds to tax payers who are seeking to move home in the same way that the Land Registry has developed its data set.

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