Covid restictions change approach to home buyers legal search service

House - sold sign

The demand for the legal searches needed as part of buying a house or a plot of land, have increased fourfold as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since March – with access restrictions and the repeated closure of Hambleton District Council’s Civic Centre – the council has been forced to change how searches are done, with all searches now being carried out ‘in house’.

These searches are needed as part of the process when buying a house or plot of land – or remortgaging. They will detail any restrictions put on the property and allow the purchase to move forward and complete.

In covid free times solicitors and agents acting for buyers and sellers are able to access the authority’s personal search computer at the civic centre to undertake this work. But with current restrictions council staff are now doing all the searches – and that is leading to around a four-week turnaround per request.  Since March the team has done an extra 350 personal searches as well as continuing to carry out full official searches.

“In simple terms, our work  has increased fourfold as a result of the covid restrictions so I would urge people to bear with us as we work hard to process as many as possible as quickly as we can,” said Jon Berry, Chief Planning Officer

“We absolutely understand people’s frustrations, but we are getting through them as fast as we can – we have increased resources to cope but unfortunately we cannot allow anyone access to the personal search computer at the civic centre so we are doing all these searches ourselves.  Searches are answered in date order and unfortunately cannot be moved to the top of the pile for any reason - this is the only fair way to do it.” 

The council’s land charges department which undertakes this work has staff working from home to ensure day to day work is covered.  Answering searches fully and accurately involves liaison with North Yorkshire County Council’s Highways department which holds some of the information needed.

To apply for a search - or for more information – contact the council on 01609 779977 or check out:

It is vital that all paperwork is completed and an up to date OS plan is included in applications to prevent further delays.


Published: 15th January 2021

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