Camden staff exodus in department responsible for land searches delays property sales

Parkheath estate agents, NW6. Picture: Google

Parkheath estate agents, NW6. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

Trying to sell a house in Camden this year has become a “frustrating process” beset with delays – because a staff shortage at the town hall in the relevant department means a crucial check is taking up to six times as long as it should.

Estate agents and sellers have complained because the council take too long to deal with land searches.

The town hall claims it is dealing with a backlog caused by a sudden loss of staff in the department dealing with land searches.

A land search is to discover what restrictions or limitations may apply to a property ahead of its sale. They range from between £22 and £105 depending on the kind of search and the Camden website suggests requests ought to be dealt with within five to 10 working days.

Kentish Town woman Zara Hart applied for a land search to be in September. She is now waiting on a result by December 5, but has been warned by her estate agent to expect it to take even until January.

Zara told the Ham&High: "By then, that's almost half a year. It's a bit rough, it's putting my sale in jeopardy."

Rosalind Zureidis now lives in Richmond but it took her four months to get a land search on a - now successfully sold West Hampstead flat - completed by Camden.

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She said: "What they do is they keep putting the deadline back. It's just been terrible, and really shocking service."

West Hampstead estate agents Parkheath NW6 are one of the companies to have noticed the downturn. Sales director David Stern told the Ham&High: "It's really holding up exchanges [of contracts]. For probably the last six months, it's been taking up to 70 working days. It's hugely frustrating."

A message on the dedicated part of Camden's website states: "[We] currently have a backlog of searches which has arisen as a result of staff shortages (a number of people left at short notice and we have had problems recruiting). We have appointed a new member of staff and another staff member will start shortly."

A Camden Council spokesperson confirmed the situation remained the same, but that: "We are working through the backlog with the expectation that it will be cleared by the end of November.