Is your search firm independently regulated?

Julie Edge | 02-Apr-2024

Conveyancers must understand if their search firm provider is independently regulated, says leading property partner, X-Press Legal Services.

The largest independent search firm in England and Wales is urging conveyancers to find out whether its search providers are members of the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) and the Property Codes Compliance Board (PCCB), which independently regulates compliance through its Search Code of Practice.

The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) is the major trade association for the property search industry. Members provide a broad range of property search reports including local, environmental, mining, chancel repair, drainage and water data and undertake over 2 million searches each year. 

The membership includes environmental report providers, mining search providers and organisations offering local searches. Today, CoPSO members produce 80% (by volume) of all private sector searches produced in the market.  

One of the advantages of being registered is that it removes the need for conveyancers to have to undertake their own supplier due diligence.

“Conveyancers should be looking for the Search Code logo on their search firm’s documentation,” commented PCCB Chair, Nicky Heathcote.  “This logo proves a search company has adequate insurance in place and is a member of an independently regulated industry trade body that abide by the Property Ombudsman Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme.  We know legal firms have very high expectations around search firms’ data and compliance and PCCB membership is central to that.  If a company is not a member, conveyancers should be asking why and conducting thorough due diligence to protect themselves.”

 The Search Code was introduced by the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) in 2006 to set minimum standards for private sector search providers to protect consumers, estate agents, conveyancers and mortgage lenders.

Every consumer who purchases a property search via a PCCB member can elevate search complaints to The Property Ombudsman scheme (TPOs) free of charge if the complaint is not resolved to their satisfaction.  Cases escalated to TPOs via this route are very rare, demonstrating the professionalism of member firms and their commitment to swiftly resolving complaints.

Lynne Lister, managing director of X-Press Legal Services comments: “The majority of consumers buying property searches understandably have no idea how critical they are to property transactions, but of course conveyancers do and they really should ensure they are buying products from firms that are regulated.  Our membership of CoPSO and the PCCB, is something we proudly share with all clients to demonstrate that we are a search firm that is committed to proactive, independent regulation.  I’d encourage all conveyancing firms to recognise the protection these regulatory bodies provide and prioritise working with member firms as part of their compliance regime.”