Private property search organisations now have their own representative body, The Council of Property Search Companies (CoPSC).
It had its inaugural meeting last week, and will meet regularly to counter the perceived threat to the private sector from the National Land Information Service (NLIS) ‘ the Government-sponsored method of conducting conveyancing searches via the internet.
Ronnie Park, managing director of OneSearch Direct, and a founder member of CoPSC, said that NLIS was just a front end for local councils, that: ‘remain in various states of chaos.’ He added that only 40 councils were capable of full online searches.
Park said: ‘Without competition from the private sector, local councils are quite poor at delivering services. There is a shift in the market towards recognising that the NLIS is not enough and there is a need for competition. In Scotland, before OneSearch began and there was no competition, a search cost around £150 and took three to four weeks. Now it costs £100 and takes three days.’
The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has supported the formation of the CoPSC from the start. However, now the body has formed it intends to take a hands-off approach.
Bernard Clarke, spokesman for the CML, said: ‘This Council has been put together to represent the interests of property search organisations, which are used by some lenders. Obviously many industries feel the need to set up a representative body to express their views to Government and other organisations.
‘We welcome the opportunity to talk with other bodies in the industry and welcome the introduction of reliable professional standards upheld by a representative body.’
The council has a number of immediate concerns to address. Park revealed that several members are in dispute with the Environment Agency over an increase in charges to search agencies, while offering a competing service.
He added: ‘Some councils are distinguishing between private and public individuals and are obstructive in issuing public data to private companies. We have case law against this in Scotland and will address the problem in England.’
The Council also intends to seek clarification of terms within the industry relating especially to present legislation.