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Higher Charges, Better Service for Property Info

Higher Charges, Better Service for Property Information – Council

The cost of receiving property information from the New Plymouth District Council is set to increase – but the service to the public will be better.

Tonight (TUESDAY) the council’s policy committee recommended that a new pricing structure be brought in for the delivery of property information to the public. The full council will consider the recommendation at the end of this month.

Manager customer support Mary-Anne Priest says the changes have come about because of a sharply increased demand from the public for property information, and the different technology that the council is using for it to access the necessary information quickly.

“It’s no secret that the district has had a building and property sales boom for several months now. In October last year we had an average of 52 property enquiries each week, whereas now the weekly average is 91 enquiries – that’s an increase of 75%.

“As a result we have customers facing longer waiting times at the front counter of the Civic Centre before they can be seen by a staff member, we’re not recovering our costs in staff time, and the information that is being sought over the counter could open the council and the customer to legal risk as we’re unable to guarantee its accuracy.

“But this new system would mean faster customer service, better cost recovery and a better standard of information to our customers.”

Currently the council offers three levels of land information memoranda (LIMs) on residential and commercial properties: standard (up to 10 working days), urgent (up to seven working days) and 24-hour. These range in cost from $150 to $500.

If the new pricing structure is approved by the council, these prices will rise by 25%.

However the biggest change will be the end of so-called ‘verbal LIMs’ – when customers request a variety of property information over the counter without purchasing a LIM.

“There’s a widespread misconception that if the property information received over the counter looks OK, then the property has the ‘council tick’ – however this isn’t the case as the information may be incomplete and it’s not legally binding like the information provided in a LIM,” says Ms Priest.

“What we’ll instead have is a basic property search available for $60. It still won’t constitute a LIM and we’ll be encouraging customers to get a LIM for the legal protection it provides, but the basic property search will give us a formal record of the information that has been sought and what information was given to the customer.

“Also, bookings could be made for meeting with technical staff if the customer wants any of the property information clarified.

“Basic property searches will be a same-day service if the requests are received before 4pm,” says Ms Priest.

Requests for one-off information, such as viewing site plans, will cost $10 – with the exception of home owners seeking information on their own home, and plumbers who provide the council with drainage information.

Ms Priest says there is a growing trend nationwide for property information to be sought over the counter rather than through LIMs. Some councils refuse to give information over the counter, while those that do provide this service vary in whether or not they charge for over-the-counter information and also in the level of charges that are in place.

However most councils contacted by the New Plymouth District Council have indicated that they are going to review their current practices and fees.

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