Why Conveyancing Searches are Important
If you’re buying a property, your Conveyancer will carry out certain searches as part of the Conveyancing process. The most common Conveyancing searches are the Local Authority search, the environmental search and the drainage search.
Additional searches may also be required depending on the location of the property, for instance, if the area has a history of tin or coal mining. Your Conveyancer will advise you on which searches are appropriate for your area.
We explain the different types property searches below. For free initial legal advice get in touch with our Conveyancing Solicitors.
Do I Need Conveyancing Searches?
If you’re buying a house with a mortgage, then the lender requires all of the appropriate searches to be undertaken. If you’re a cash buyer, then you’re not obliged to have the Conveyancing searches done, but we’ll always advise that you do.
A prudent buyer should always obtain as much information about the property as possible before exchange of Contracts.
The Environmental Search
This gives information about the immediate area in which the property you’re purchasing is situated and may highlight the need for further searches to be conducted. It will reveal information about possible risks within 500m of the property, specifically flooding, subsidence, landslide, landfill and waste sites and potentially contaminated sites.
The Drainage Search
This shows whether the property is connected to mains water and drainage, whether the sewers are adopted and the location of public water mains. It’ll also reveal if there are any public sewers within the boundaries of the property or its vicinity which could affect future development or building work.
The Local Authority Search
Of all the Conveyancing searches, the Local Authority search is the one that provides probably the largest range of information about the property that you’re buying.
The Local Authority search answers a specific set of questions relating to the property and the Local Authority area, including traffic schemes and major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail or HS2.
Commonly revealed information includes details of whether the property is a listed building or in a conservation area, and whether there are any restrictions on permitted development. This is vital information if you’re intending to make any changes to the property in the future.
The planning and building regulations information also enable your Conveyancing Solicitor to check that the appropriate consents were obtained for previous alterations.
If works have been carried out without consent, then you could face enforcement action from the Local Authority, and expensive remedial costs if work hasn’t been carried out to the appropriate building regulations standard.
The Local Authority search also reveals smoke control orders and tree preservation orders.
A smoke control order prevents you from emitting smoke unless it’s an authorised fuel or you’re using an exempt appliance. You can be fined up to £1,000 for breaking this rule.
A tree preservation order prohibits the cutting, lopping or topping certain trees without the consent of the Local Authority.
In certain circumstances, a seller or other previous owner might have obtained a repayable home improvement grant, or the property may be subject to some other financial charge. The search will reveal this, enabling your Conveyancer to ensure that any outstanding liabilities are paid before your purchase completes.
What Doesn’t the Local Authority Search Reveal?
It’s important to note that when it comes to planning information, the Local Authority search only reveals entries relating to the property itself and not neighbouring properties or land.
If you want to check that your prospective new neighbour isn’t building an intrusive rear extension, then the search won’t answer this question. Nor will it let you know if a developer has permission to build 150 new homes on the neighbouring fields and spoil the beautiful view that you’ve been looking forward to enjoying.
If these are your concerns, then our Conveyancers can carry out a Plansearch at a small additional cost. This will reveal information on all planning activities in the vicinity of the property and it’s very worthwhile if local development could affect your enjoyment of the property or affect its value.
Remember though, that all of the Conveyancing searches represent a snapshot of the current position, and development could still take place in the future.
You may want to research the local area and the Council’s planning policy and local plan before committing yourself to the purchase.
Simpson Millar Solicitors are a national law firm with over 500 staff and offices in Billingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Catterick, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.