Code of Practice for Search Compilers and Retailers
Aims and Objectives
The Search Code:
- provides protection for homebuyers, sellers, estate agents, conveyancers and mortgage lenders who rely on the information included in property search reports undertaken by subscribers on residential and commercial property within the United Kingdom
- sets out minimum standards which organisations compiling and selling search reports have to meet
- promotes the best practice and quality standards within the industry for the benefit of consumers and property professionals
- enables consumers and property professionals to have confidence in organisations which subscribe to the code, their products and services.
Organisations providing property search reports can subscribe to the Search Code as either a retailer or a compiler. The Property Codes Compliance Board maintains a register of all subscribing firms. You can check whether a search firm subscribes to the Code by searching the Register or by looking for the Search Code logo on their products.
Organisations which subscribe to the Search Code will:
- display the Search Code logo prominently on their search reports
- act with integrity and carry out work with due skill, care and diligence
- at all times maintain adequate and appropriate insurance to protect consumers
- conduct business in an honest, fair and professional manner
- handle complaints speedily and fairly
- ensure that products and services comply with industry registration rules and standards and relevant laws
- monitor their compliance with the Code
Applying the Core Principles
These notes describe the minimum standards to which firms subscribing to the Code will perform in order to comply with the above core principles. They are our commitment to you to provide a high quality service. In complying with the Code, we will seek to abide by its spirit as well as its express provisions. In doing so, we will:
1. Display the Search Code Logo prominently on their search reports
- clearly display the Search Code and any relevant trade body logos on the front of all search reports.
- clearly identify which company has compiled the search where this is different from the company selling it.
2. Act with integrity, and carry out work with due skill, care and diligence
- make compliance with this Code a condition within the terms and conditions under which we provide search reports and services
- only contract with third party suppliers who adopt standards of practice and consumer protection which are comparable with those in this Code
- accurately report the most up-to-date available information and risks associated with the property from the sources consulted.
- provide complete search results based on a search of all legitimate, commercially and readily available sources (i.e. a physical examination of public records; a response from an official entitled to provide the information; our own current records; or commercially available data)
- make clear to customers in advance: what sources of information are commercially and readily available; what additional sources of information may be obtained, identifying any additional cost or time delay involved; where required information is unobtainable
- state clearly in the search report what sources of information have been searched
- ensure that all data and information is handled with integrity, in accordance with data protection legislation and protecting copyright and intellectual property rights.
- train our staff to compile and sell property searches in accordance with this Code and monitor their performance.
3. Maintain adequate and appropriate insurance to protect consumers
- maintain professional indemnity, specialist search and run-off cover insurance in order to provide the highest levels of consumer protection
- ensure that that specialist search insurance is only used in appropriate circumstances – as prescribed by the Property Codes Compliance Board in consultation with the search industry
- clearly identify in all search reports where such insurance has been used
4. Conduct business in an honest, fair and professional manner
- ensure that the terms and conditions and marketing materials relating to our services (whether printed or electronic form) are clear, fair, reasonable and not misleading.
- tell you the charges (and payment terms) for any service before it is provided and at any time you ask
- advise you of any additional charges which may become payable.
- provide you with search reports promptly, and advise you if any delay occurs.
- respond to queries raised on our search services or search reports within 5 working days in writing, via telephone or e-mail. If your query relates to a report sold but not compiled by us, we will pass it to the search organization and ensure that they respond within the same timescale.
5. Handle complaints speedily and fairly
- produce a formal written complaints procedure and tell you what this is.
- acknowledge a complaint within 5 working days of its receipt.
- normally deal with a complaint fully and in writing within 20 working days of receipt.
- keep you informed by letter, telephone or e-mail, as you prefer, if we need more time.
- provide a final written response at the latest within 40 days of receipt
- liaise, at your request, with anyone acting formally on your behalf
If you are not satisfied with our final response, you may refer the complaint to The Property Ombudsman: (t) 01722 333306 or (e) [email protected]. We will co-operate fully with the Ombudsman during an investigation and comply with his final decision.
6. Ensure that all search services comply with industry registration rules, standards and relevant laws
- comply with relevant legislation and guidance issued under the Code as well as registration rules and industry standards specified by the Property Codes Compliance Board
- report to the Property Codes Compliance Board any breach of the Search Code or related legislation of which they become aware and which to their knowledge has been perpetrated by a search provider
7. Monitor their compliance with the Code
- nominate a Code Compliance Officer
- formally audit compliance with the Code at least once a year
- submit a copy of this annual audit and statement of compliance, signed by a senior executive, to the Property Codes Compliance Board on the anniversary of registration
- readily facilitate and comply fully with any compliance activity undertaken by the Property Codes Compliance Board
The Search Code is owned and maintained by the Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO)
The Code is monitored and enforced by the Property Codes Compliance Board, which is an independent body funded by registered firms. The Board comprises a majority of consumer interest members. Complaints concerning the general operation of the Code can be made to the PCCB – [email protected]
This Search Code will be reviewed at regular intervals with key industry bodies, to ensure best practice in search reports and search services.
PCCB: Third Edition 8th October 2010
Published by the Council of Property Search Organisations
The Search Code