What are searches for?

What are the ‘searches’ that conveyancers do for clients and why do we do them?

It’s our mission to demystify conveyancing and make it easier for our clients to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. One area that we know isn’t clear to some of our clients is the ‘searches’ part of our process.

So, exactly what are ‘searches’ and what’s their purpose?

The truth is that searches, more than just another line item on your bill, are a really important part of conveyancing. This is one of the areas where, as your legal representative, we can add lots of value and help our clients to avoid buying a property that could put them at personal or financial risk in the future.

When we get to the searches stage of the job (and if you aren’t sure what the stages that we go through are, you can find out in this post) we are submitting enquires to various authorities so that we can get you more information about the property that you want to buy. The authorities that we submit to are the local councils and county councils, the Environment Agency & water authorities. Sometimes your particular property will also need mining searches, flood searches or similar.

You aren’t legally obliged to conduct searches if you are a cash buyer (lenders insist on them), but it can save a lot of heartache in the future, as they will provide us with critical information regarding the legal aspects of the property and its environment, that might not even be known to the current owner. This could include restrictions on who can live at the property or how it can be used, tree protection, planning issues, building regulations breaches, access problems and lots of other vital issues.

Which searches do we do?

The type of searches that you need us to conduct on your behalf will vary depending on the type of property that you are buying and its location.

They will range from amongst the following:

Local Authority Search (LAS)

This search provides information relating to the property that you are buying, and does not cover the surrounding area. Information such as:

  • A list of relevant entries in the Local Charges Register
  • Information on planning applications relevant to the property (granted or refused)
  • Building control history
  • Any enforcement action
  • Restrictions on permitted development
  • Tree Preservation Orders
  • Nearby road schemes
  • Radon gas information
  • Additional questions relating to public rights of way, areas of outstanding beauty, pipeline and pollution notices, or town/village greens.

The Local Authority Search is required by all lenders if you are obtaining a mortgage.

Water & Drainage Search

We do this search to find out if there are any public sewers or water mains within the boundaries of the property, or nearby. This could affect future development or building work. It will show if the property is connected to mains water and drainage, whether the sewers are adopted, and where nearby sewage works are located.

Environmental Search

Most mortgage lenders require you to have this search. This search identifies risks within 500 meters of the property, such as flooding, subsidence, landslides, landfill, waste sites and potentially contaminated sites.

Chancel Repair Search

This will show whether a property has a potential liability to contribute to the cost of repairs to the church. Unfortunately, there is no central database to identify properties with chancel repair liability and existing records are incomplete. In some cases, liability will be shown at the Land Registry, but this is not always the case.

Additional location related searches

Occasionally, additional specialist searches may be required in accordance with the Council for Mortgage Lenders instructions, depending on location of the property. For example, if the property is next to a canal or river, then a British Waterways search should be considered.

Flood Report

This will show if the property has been flooded within the last 75 years. You will get information about the potential flood risk and confirm if this could adversely affect your ability to obtain suitable insurance.  It’s worth thinking about if your property is near a river, lake, stream, or even on low ground.

Commons Registration Search

This indicates whether your property abuts a village green or common land, if it is built on previously undeveloped land, or where a verge slip separates the property from a public highway. The search will show whether the land is registered under the Common Registration Act 1965. This may mean you have to pay to use it, or if other people have rights over the land and if it prevents you from obtaining planning permission to develop the land.

Coal Mining & Brine Search

This search will identify whether your property is in an area where coal or brine mining has occurred, or is likely to take place. In addition, it will reveal the existence of underground coal/brine workings, mine entrances that may cause subsidence, whether compensation for subsidence has been paid in the past or repairs carried out, and if there are any outstanding claims. This isn’t something to be alarmed about, as there are specific parts of the country where it could be a possibility and others where the search isn’t required at all.

If you need any additional searches your solicitor will advise you upfront and if they do uncover any issues with the property, all is not lost! You likely will still be able to buy the property, but ask your solicitor to advise you on how to overcome any obstacles. A good solicitor should have ideas for resolving most problems.

If you have any questions about the searches, or you’d like to talk to us about getting a quote for conveyancing on your upcoming house sale or purchase, submit your details and we’ll be in touch soon!

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