The rise of Regulated Personal Searches

8 July 2013

A recent survey of the UK’s search providers has revealed that over the last two years, the industry has recorded a significant increase in the use of Regulated Personal Searches, compared with the more traditional, Council searches.

Last month, the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO), whose members produce over 80% (by volume) of all private sector searches produced in the market, conducted a survey among Search Code subscribers. The survey asked subscribers to confidentially confirm the names of those customers who routinely order Regulated Personal Searches. Findings from the survey revealed that of the top independent solicitor and Licensed Conveyancer firms, identified by the Land Registry, a significant majority (89%)* are now regularly choosing to use searches from personal search providers rather than those directly supplied by Local Authorities.

These findings demonstrate a significant leap from previous years and prove testament to the added reassurance and widely recognised stamp of quality provided by the Search Code. The Search Code was first introduced by CoPSO in 2006 and provides protection for all those who rely on the information included in property search reports undertaken by subscribers. The Code’s requirements ensure that all organisations subscribing to the Code deliver a consistently high standard of product and service – offering peace of mind against fraud and negligence, and the reassurance that the information within the report is from a trusted and regulated source. Further, the Code requires not only that subscribers maintain £2m of Professional Indemnity insurance for every search carried out, but that they also put in place specific Search insurance which covers any errors or omissions in the Local Authority’s data. 

James Sherwood-Rogers, Chairman of CoPSO said: “We have been aware in recent years that the uptake of Regulated Personal Searches has been growing rapidly among major conveyancing firms. We took the decision to survey our members to enable us to gather an accurate picture of just how many are now actively commissioning them on a regular basis. We believe the use of Regulated Personal Searches is now incredibly high amongst the largest conveyancers and with the Search Code becoming an increasingly well recognised and established mark of quality across the industry, we expect this to extend to more traditional high street conveyancing firms.

“Our members report that their conveyancer clients value the added reassurance that comes with Regulated Personal Searches, along with the often faster delivery and greater consistency in terms of both pricing and quality. This is further enhanced by the Search Code’s demanding insurance requirements, and the redress mechanism for consumers provided by The Property Ombudsman, which offers peace of mind for all those relying on the information provided in the search report."

CoPSO members supply the great majority of conveyancing lawyers in England and Wales with a variety of different types of searches, including Regulated Personal Searches, drainage and water searches, environmental searches and flood reports. COPSO represents over 90% of the private sector industry in the provision of data and services, and has over 100 members.

While CoPSO maintains the Search Code, it is the Property Codes Compliance Board (PCCB), which monitors and enforces it. The PCCB plays a vital role in ensuring that subscribers act with integrity and provide the utmost level of professional service to their customers, carrying out a detailed assessment of new members, and monitoring the products and services of existing code compliant companies. The Search Code clearly specifies what is required of subscribers, how the information should be gathered and presented to the customer and the measures that must be in place to protect homebuyers, their lawyers and lenders. 

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Follow the CoPSO Chairman on James Sherwood-Rogers on twitter: @JamesS_R

*Figures derived from the Land Registry’s top 150 conveyancing firms. By taking out mortgage lender’s own legal arms, this leaves 131 independent solicitor and Licensed Conveyancer firms, 117 of which were regularly commissioning Regulated Personal Searches

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