The Local Authorities (Charges for Property Searches) Regulations 2008 allow authorities to recover the cost of allowing access to property records and answering queries about a property. The authorities must not make a profit but their costs can go beyond merely photocopying charges. However, an authority cannot make a charge under the Regulations for information which it must make free of charge under other legislation.
In July the Information Commissioner published guidance on the relationship between the Regulations and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. The Commissioner stated that most information which authorities provide when answering property search enquiries qualifies as environmental information. As such it is governed by the Environmental Regulations rather the Local Authorities (Charges for Property Searches) Regulations. The Environmental Regulations state that authorities must make environmental information available free of charge though they can charge for photocopying.
The Commissioner has since decided that two councils had been wrong to refuse requests to inspect information relating to building control and highways scheme records.