Landlords buying investment property might not be able to complete before the stamp duty holiday cut-off in March, warns The Conveyancing Association.

Long turnaround times for local authority searches caused by staff shortages and redeployment are causing the biggest hold-up, with almost a third of English councils taking 20 days or more to reply.

Harrogate Council is one of the worst offenders, currently estimating an average reply time of 70 working days.

The association reckons that it’s currently taking sellers an average of 77 days from listing a property to getting a viable offer and a further 123 days from offer to exchange, meaning they could miss out on savings.

Director of delivery, Beth Rudolf (left), says that while the Government’s Local Land Charges project to digitalise local authority search records will make a big difference, it only covers the 12 parts of the register. 

“The second part of the search – the CON29R – asks for around 163 data sets from the local authority and there is no plan to digitise that,” she tells LandlordZONE.

“You will get the local land charge from the Land Registry instantly online which is brilliant but will still need to go to your search provider who will have to jump through the required hoops at the local authority to get the CON29 before you exchange.”

Rudolf suggests that sellers could order their local search and drainage and water search at the time of listing so that there’s time to deal with additional enquiries about planning permission or un-adopted roads. She says the information would then be available to the buyer before they choose a mortgage.

The current stamp duty holiday applies for purchases under £500,000 although landlords still have to pay the second home surcharge of 3%.

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