Searches - If it aint broken, dont fix it

Posted: 22/09/2011

At a conference at Bolton Arena a representative of Land Registry gave a presentation which was followed by a question and answer session.

One of the questioners asked about the proposed centralisation of land charges and other conveyancing information currently held by local authorities and used to compile local searches by the council and personal search companies for use in the conveyancing process. The Land Registry representative informed the attendees that there are approximately 380 local authority offices and each had its own method of storing, retrieving, collating and delivering the required information. These varied from boxes of loose paper through index cards, ring binders, microfiche to fully computerised systems. For Land Registry to be a centralised delivery service all the existing records would need to be computerised and systems put in place to send the future details electronically to Land Charges. The National Land Information Service, (NLIS) has been trying to get the councils to do this for ten years and still have not achieved it. To quote one of the delegates, “they have more chance of being struck by thunder.” Charges varied from around £50 to £300 so a national price was not available making it difficult to quote a fixed price conveyancing package.

It was pointed out by Land Registry that a survey of around 400 solicitors and conveyancers showed a general satisfaction with the service provided by private search companies. Generally payment was on account, delivery was by their preferred method and fully electronic was the norm regardless of how the council delivered. The content was well presented and more accurate than the council searches, covered by run off insurance, usually lower priced and the service is better. There was little enthusiasm for change found at the councils which is to be expected so the likelihood of this change happening this decade is slight. Many private companies are providing this service which makes accidental disruption less likely than any centralised service and with the record of computerisation of public services such as the health service and tax as an example it may not be a bad idea to leave it to the private sector.

As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

(1) Comments solicitors, searches, conveyancing

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