If you are selling your home and intend to buy a new one to move into, your solicitor will at some point inform you that they will be carrying out a set of ‘searches’ as part of the conveyancing process.
The number and type of searches that will be undertaken vary from property to property depending on several factors including property type and mortgage lenders requests.
If you are buying a property with a mortgage, the mortgage company will insist that certain searches are carried out in case they unearth information that impacts of the property’s value which in turn affects their investment. Your mortgage lender has a financial stake in the property you are buying and could, in theory, need to repossess it and sell it on. They will want to make sure that it is worth what they lent you and that they will be able to sell it on without any significant issues. Therefore your lender will instruct your conveyancer to carry out these searches before they release the mortgage funds.
As a cash buyer you are not always legally bound to carry out searches. However, not doing so can cost you in the long run if problems with the property arise in the future.
How Much Do Searches Cost?
The cost of local authority fees vary on what is ordered. They could cost between £50 and £250. Additional fees also differ. Drainage reports will cost between £30-40 plus VAT, environmental reports will cost between £30-35 plus VAT.
You might be offered a fixed fee ‘bundle’ by your conveyancer which will cover the four main report criteria (Local Authority, Drainage and Water, Environmental and Chancel reports). This might cost around £200-260, but are recommended as they cover local authority costs even if the combined total is more than what you pay.
Here are some of the most common searches
Local Authority Search
There are two parts to a local authority search – a LLC1 and a CON29.
The LLC1 (Local Land Charge Register search) covers any ‘charges’ or ‘restrictions’ relating to land or property.
They can tell you whether the property you are buying is:
- A listed building
- In a conservation area
- Subject to a tree protection order
- In need of an improvement or renovation grant
- Situated in a smoke control zone
This search also covers planning agreements and conditional planning permissions.
The second part of the search – the CON29 – supplies information regarding public highways. This could show up any proposals for new roads, railways and other local planning decisions that could affect the property you want to buy. These searches also cover outstanding statutory notices, breaches of planning or building regulations and compulsory purchase orders.
Other environmental factors, such as whether the house stands on contaminated land, or in a Radon gas affected area are also covered.
Not included in local authority searches but can be paid for as extras are searches that would uncover:
- Applications for proposed development of roads.
- Searches concerning flooding, the proximity of landfill sites or potentially contaminated sites
- Water authority searches/public sewers within the boundaries of the property
- Chancel Repair reports
Water and Drainage Searches
These searches will unearth any issues concerning the proximity of public sewers and show up any sewers running through the boundaries of your property. They will also tell you if the property is connected to the mains water supply and whether foul water and surface drainage from your property drain to a public sewer. It will also document the location of the water mains.
There are also some non-compulsary searches that should be undertaken in certain circumstances.
Your conveyancer will have to decide whether land contamination is an issue in your particular purchase. Mortgage companies do not often require an environmental search to be carried out therefore it is not one of the routine ones. However, environmental issues should be considered where necessary, if, for example, it is known that there is a flood risk.
If there are significant contamination issues reported, should you go ahead and order this search, both you and your lender must be advised.
This type of search should take place when a property borders common land such as a passageway or a village green. If it transpires that common land has been registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965, no development is permitted on that land.
This search is noted as an optional enquiry on the CON 29 (O): Optional Enquiries of Local Authority. It should always be carried out when purchasing agricultural land.
Coal mining searches should be carried out when a property is in an ‘affected’ area. This search is largely carried out for mortgage lender’s benefit. The results should reveal whether or not there is any anticipation of coal mining activity in the future or whether there was any in the past. It will show up any underground coal workings that exist and mine entries that might cause problems with subsidence. It will tell you whether compensation has been sought for to subsidence caused by mining issues..
Take Note: in some cases where compensation has been paid out due to any subsidence caused by coal mining, it will not be paid out again. This is the case even if subsidence continues to cause problems.
Land Charge searches should be made when dealing with unregistered land. They will reveal any bankruptcy proceedings are registered against the land owner. It will also inform you of any incumbances over the land that could cause you problems in the future.
Index Map Search
When dealing with unregistered land these searches should always be made. They are also useful when buying land named in more than one registered title. This will reveal whether the land is already registered or whether there are any pending applications.
Chancel Repair Liability
If you are buying a property close to a church, a chancel liability search should be carried out. This should tell you whether you are liable for any costs associated with the upkeep and repairs to the church. Your new deeds should note whether you are liable to contribute but it should not be assumed that this will always be recorded. Your solicitor should ask the seller this question when enquiries are raised.
Sometimes people take out indemnity insurance in place of conveyancing searches. Ask your conveyancer about this.
How Long Do Local Authority Searches Take?
Timescale will vary from area to area. It could take a week or it could take up to six weeks in the most extreme cases. There are so many variables as to why this is, from staffing levels, to the property you are buying to the availability of information.