Signing a Contract

CONVEYANCING FOR FIRST TIME BUYERS

PROPERTY SEARCHES

When you are buying a property your solicitor will carry out property searches on your behalf. If you are obtaining a mortgage to buy, your lender will insist that all searches appropriate to the purchase property are carried out.  If you are not getting a mortgage to buy and are buying for cash, then these searches are optional.

Property searches are not a physical inspection of the property – many people confuse property searches with surveys. Property searches are forms, containing set questions that your solicitor will send to the relevant search authority.  Surveys are a physical inspection of the property carried out by a surveyor and need to be ordered by the purchaser separately to their conveyancing.

There are numerous property searches available but the most common ones are:-

Local Authority Search

This search can be carried out in two ways:-

  1. Your solicitor sends the forms directly to the Local Authority, they complete the form and return it. The Local Authority gives a guarantee that the information provided is accurate.

  2. Your solicitor instructs a personal search agency to carry out the search. They attend at the Local Authority and obtain answers to the questions on the search form. They then return the forms to your solicitor. Personal search agencies have indemnity insurance to protect you should the information provided be inaccurate.

What is a local authority search?

A plan of the property showing the full extent of the property and land belonging to it, is required to do the search. This plan is usually provided by the Seller’s solicitor but can also be obtain from H M Land Registry.

A full local authority search is usually carried out when buying a property. A standard search includes 2 parts:

  1. An extract from the Local Land Charges Register (Form LLC1)

The Local Land Charges Register (LLCR) holds information about a property, such as:

  • Restrictions

  • Prohibitions

  • Financial requirements

  1. A set of standard enquiries of local authorities (Forms CON29 and CON29O)

CON29 is a set of standard enquires, which are usually made when buying a property, these include matters such as:

  • Major road proposals

  • Traffic schemes

  • Road adoption status

CON29O is a set of further optional enquiries which can be included by request. These cover matters such as:

  • Road proposals by private bodies

  • Public rights of way

  • Common land / village green enquiries

What the Local Authority Search Reveals

  • Planning and building decisions and pending applications

  • Roadways, footways and footpaths

  • Public rights of way

  • Land required for public purposes

  • Land to be acquired for road works

  • Drainage agreement and consents

  • Nearby road schemes

  • Nearby railway schemes

  • Traffic schemes

  • Outstanding notices

  • Contravention of building regulations

  • Notices, orders, directions and proceedings under Planning Acts

  • Community infrastructure levy (CIL)

  • Conservation area

  • Compulsory purchase

  • Contaminated land

  • Radon gas

  • Assets of Community Value

The purpose of a local search is to:

Provide the buyer and their mortgage lender with information about the property. For instance if the property is going to be affected by major road works, a new rail system, a new housing development etc.

Provide the buyer and their mortgage lender with information about any breaches of the Local Authority regulations by the Seller. For instance a breach of planning permission or building regulations would be registered on the search. Breach of Local Authority regulations may carry fines, and can be costly to fix. Any such fine, or financial burden is the responsibility of the property owner.

To ensure that any breaches and financial obligations are remedied by the seller, prior to completion, to protect the buyer and their mortgage lender.

  • WATER AUTHORITY – DRAINAGE AND WATER SEARCH

  • This search is carried out by your solicitor using form CON29DW.

  • CON29DW Water and Drainage Searches include the following:

Confirmation of:

  • Whether or not the property is connected to a public water supply

  • How the property is currently charged for the water and wastewater services – (metered or not)

  • Whether the property is connected to a public sewer

  • Whether the property is affected by, or is close to, water mains or public sewers

  • Distance and location of the nearest wastewater treatment works

ENVIRONMENTAL SEARCH

Your solicitor will carry out an environmental search as part of the standard package of searches required by a mortgage lender. If you are buying without a mortgage then the search is optional. There are a number of companies in the UK that hold reliable environmental information about land and property in the UK.

There are a bewildering number of environmental reports available. Most solicitors will start with a basic environmental search which will give information about:-

  • Past use of the land upon which the property is built

  • Details of land contamination

  • Flood risk

  • Ground stability

  • Energy installations and potential energy installations near the property

  • Transportation routes and potential transportation routes affecting the property

  • Coal mining or other mining past or present affecting the property


CHANCEL REPAIR SEARCH

Chancel repair liability is a legal obligation on some property owners in England and Wales to pay for certain repairs to a church which may, or may not be, the local parish church.

Your solicitor will carry out a chancel repair search to check whether the property being purchased is liable for chancel repair. If you are obtaining a mortgage most lenders insist on the chancel repair search or chancel repair insurance. If you are buying for cash this search is optional.

COAL AND OTHER TYPES OF MINING SEARCH

Certain parts of the UK have been subject to coal, tin, salt, brine and chalk mining. Your solicitor will check whether the property you are buying is in such an area.  If the property is in a mining area then your lender will insist on a mining search.  If you are buying without a mortgage this search is optional.

A mining search will check whether the land is built over an old or existing mine. The search will reveal:

  • Whether there is an environmental or stability risk to the property

  • Mineshafts

  • Subsidence claims

  • Reported hazards

  • Mine gas emissions

Once the searches have been carried out your solicitor will check the results and report on them to you. Depending upon the results of the searches they may recommend that further enquiries/searches are made – such as a flood report or a ground stability report.

Searches can be a costly part of the conveyancing process but they are there to inform and protect the buyer and their mortgage lender.