When is a search not a search?
There is a lot of talk at the moment about upfront search information, especially with the growth in new housing developments. It has been well documented how the housing supply had not been meeting demand since the 2020 –2021 boom. There are also a lot of Councils falling behind on their new homes requirements set out 5 years ago.
As the pandemic subsides, developers are moving at great pace to satisfy both the supply, and the quotas. This coincides with a renewed appetite for “upfront” property information, especially for plot sales.
There is a misguided perception that all plots on a development would have exactly the same issues. What about varying flood risks, building regs applications on houses before they are even built?
Avoiding a return to Home Information Packs, some are now being convinced that there are “searches” available for plot sales, costing as little as £5 and taking minutes or even seconds to produce. You know the saying “if it looks too good to be true…”, well I’m afraid that is the case here.
I’m not saying that these reports are worthless or that they do not assist the quick sales of plots. What I am saying is that they are NOT Searches. They are of no value whatsoever further on in the conveyance. Wouldn’t it be better to pay a bit more and have something useful further down the line?
The main reason that these reports can not be used by the buyers solicitors to replace the need for a search, is that they do not comply with the PCCB Search Code. These reports are based on a site or development and then just headings amended to refer to a plot. The code is noticeably clear. Compliance Note CN021 States as follows:
“3. Scope of the RLAS
Clarity of the Scope of the RLAS offered by Registered Firms is essential and must satisfy the following code requirements:
a. The RLAS must include the Local Land Charges and CON29 information pertaining to a specific property following the HM Land Registry boundaries. “
Lorna Bown, Chief Compliance Inspector, PCCB went further: “Whilst much of the information is the same, an individual search must be carried on each property on a new development as developers should submit Building Regs for each property which generally will fall under the same submission however homeowners may still have requested and paid for something different to the rest of the development so the records are not forced to be all the same. An LLC search simply would not cover a whole development.”
So, the recent claim from a provider that they can produce “Local Land Charges Search in 25 seconds” is misleading to say the very least. There is no problem at all in advertising such a report as a pre-sales advice document. But to describe it as a search is simply incorrect and deliberately fraudulent. At HW Conveyancing Searches we offer a fully compliant Local Authority search pack (Code Compliant Local Land Charges Search and Environmental Report) for as little as £89.75 (plus VAT). Unfortunately, it may take up to 20 working days, but that is because we are waiting on the Local Council for Building Regulations data. You have to wait to get a report that complies with the PCCB, as explained above. As an individual report with all the date required, it can now be called a “search”. We will update it for you at no extra cost as well.
So, the purchaser now has a legitimate search and Environmental Report to give straight to their lawyer, saving a lot of time and money.
No one should be fooled into thinking that anything that costs peanuts and takes seconds to produce is in any shape or form a “Search”. At IPSA (the national trade body for search firms), we have become aware of and reported such audacious claims, and investigations by PCCB are ongoing.
When is a search not a search?