Last week, Michael Gove, shadow minister for housing and MP for Surrey Heath, questioned the government about wide variations in the costs of local authority searches in relation to HIPs.
The Office of Fair Trading’s 2005 research into local searches found that authorities charged between £59 and £269 per search. When HIPs are introduced on June 1 the cost of searches is likely to be incorporated into the cost of the packs. This could lead to discrepancies in price across the country.
The government has vowed to look into cost variations.
Housing minister Yvette Cooper, says: “It is difficult to see how such variations can be justified. We are therefore commissioning independent experts to produce fresh guidance on searches.”
LMS welcomes the decision but slams the Tories for using cost variations as a weapon against HIPs.
Dominic Toller, director of marketing and new business at LMS, says: “This problem is nothing to do with HIPs. It has been going on for years, regardless of HIP deadlines. It’s wrong but that’s the way it is. This complaint, although backed by LMS, seems like a play to criticise the impending enforcement of HIPs.”
LMS recently became the first pro-vider to launch a HIP offering. By buying 200,000 personal searches in advance it was able to set the price at between £299 and £399. LMS is pushing for all future searches to be personal rather than through local authorities.
Toller adds: “In effect, HIPs will improve the situation with regard to searches. Depending on the age of a HIP, a search will have either already been completed and included or if an update is necessary, this will have been requested.”