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Councils will be searching for answers

Your readers will probably be aware that the trans- itional arrangements for Hips come to an end on April 5, after which date, most properties must have a Hip in place before they can be marketed.

Some of your readers may not be aware, however, that although Hip suppliers will still have 28 days to provide search information, the provision of insurance cover for missing search information will not be permitted from April 6 onwards.

One possible consequence of this development is that whereas homeowners and Hip providers have, to date, been willing to rely on personal searches underpinned by insurance, they may be far less willing to do so in the future. This may lead to an increase in requests for official searches from local authorities, a situation which I severely doubt the majority of councils are geared up to handle.

Of the 410 local authorities in the UK, about half do not yet have a fully computerised ability to respond promptly to search requests. What is more, I am not aware of any councils that have added staff in anticipation of an increased workload from April 6 onwards. On the contrary, councils have been announcing job cuts in recent weeks.

It is quite possible that we could end up with councils charging more for providing searches while struggling to respond to requests in a timely fashion.

The only hope is that the OFT study into homebuying and selling will conclude that Hips are a hindrance rather than a help and should be abandoned but we have to wait until the end of the year before the study results are published.

Eddie Goldsmith

Senior partner

Goldsmith Williams Solicitors

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