Estate agents and conveyancers are to get together this week to voice their concerns about the turnaround time for local authority searches in one city.
Derby City Council is said to be taking 44 working days – almost nine weeks – to issue searches, with the time continuing to climb weekly.
One agent, Ben Brain, director of Hannells, told EYE: “While the turnaround time is not the worst in the country, it is having a devastating effect on transaction times leading to all kinds of complications and a massive spike in fall-throughs.
“It’s causing our customers to lose out on their dream homes, and to miss getting their kids in to school catchments.
“It’s costing them financially after spending money on surveys and conveyancing fees, and adding enormous amounts of stress to an ordinary stressful process.
“It is also starting to put local practices and agencies out of business.”
Brain said that members of his sales progression team have “relayed numerous stories about solicitors who won’t be getting paid anything this month due to no exchanges”.
He believed a number of agents would also be in serious trouble.
He said: “The council shows no intention of doing anything about it any time soon.
“It sounds extreme, but in truth it is single-handedly ruining the local housing market.”
Brain is organising a meeting this Thursday evening of local estate agency and conveyancing practice owners.
He said: “We need to put our differences aside for the sake of our teams and the families they support to work out a solution and force the council to get its act together.
“If it works, it will have significant positive consequences for everybody involved in the local property ‘ecosystem’ and would hopefully spark off similar events across the country as I know this is a massive issue for many regions.
“The council won’t listen to us as individual businesses, but as a collective of many local businesses and with a bit of press behind us, it will have no choice.”
So far nine Derby firms have said they will attend Thursday’s meeting, including the developer Redrow.
Brain is keen for as many agents and conveyancers affected to get in touch with him, with a view to attending the meeting.
He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07917 443984.
Emily Feenan, interim director of Legal, Procurement and Democratic Services and monitoring officer for Derby City Council, said: “We acknowledge timescales for land searches are currently longer than they should be and the Council is committed to improving turnaround times as a priority for the coming year.
“The Land Charges team will always do their best to deal with very urgent requests out of order if necessary to prevent a sale being lost or delayed.
“Unfortunately tomorrow’s meeting falls on the day of the local election. All Land Charges colleagues also have responsibility for delivering elections and will have key duties from 7am until 3am on polling day.
“We would be happy to meet with Derby’s estate agency and conveyancing practice owners to discuss the matter further.”
*Note: Story updated with quote from Derby City Council on May 1