Why have searches when purchasing a property?

July 3, 2017

For first time buyers it can come as a surprise that searches are required at all when they have also paid for a survey and it is important that the reason the searches are performed is understood.

As with previous articles it should be re-iterated that the overriding principle here is that is for the buyer to satisfy themselves of the suitability of the property that they purchasing – the seller is unlikely to be liable for issues discovered after a purchase. The usual conveyancing searches cover a wide range of matters, many of which may never have been considered by a buyer, and it is always advisable to discuss the searches available with your legal representative. Searches are an integral part of obtaining as full a picture as possible about a property and  to assess the risks associated with a particular purchase.

Where a mortgage lender is involved it is likely they will instruct that all relevant searches be obtained. Where a buyer is purchasing for cash the instruction of searches is highly recommended although the ability to proceed without them, or with indemnity insurance, is available at the buyer’s risk. A summary and overview of the 3 most common searches is below:

Local Authority Search  – (LLC1, CON29(R) CON29(O)

Arguably this is the most important search and virtually all mortgage lenders will require that this is obtained. The information is provided by the Local Authority (Official Search) or compiled by a search agent (Personal Search) and provides responses to a pre-set number of ‘required’ questions as well as ‘optional’ queries where requested. The required enquiries cover the planning and building regulation history for the property and highlight any historic or current enforcement notices, contaminated land, drainage and road schemes amongst other things.  The optional enquiries cover if the roads serving the property are maintainable at public expense, public paths and planning zone considerations. Information from the Local land Charges register will usually be ordered and covers local restrictions such as smoke control orders, increased planning requirements and conservation areas etc.   Even for a cash buyer who is familiar with the local area, a  conveyancer would require a written waiver before completing a purchase without this search as there can be significant financial repercussions should it transpire after the purchase that the property cannot be used or developed in the manner expected.  If the Local Authority has decided to purchase the property to knock it down for local improvements this is the search to show it.

Drainage and Water Search (CON29DW)

At first glance if there is a tap for water and an inspection chamber for drainage this search may seem unnecessary but these searches can reveal significant and costly issues that any buyer should be made aware of the potential for. CON29DW provides Information on the known location of infrastructure adopted and maintained by a utility provider that may require consent to be built near, or over, and identifying these matters can avoid planning headaches as well as the cost of rectifying mistakes where build over agreements have been overlooked. Information on previous water and drainage issues will also be disclosed.

Environmental Search

This search will collate information from various databases that cover risks from a variety of natural and man made hazards including basic information on flooding, subsidence and land contamination risks among other things. The search is non-specific to the property and usually covers a very large area around the property, normally at least the postcode area. As the search is non-specific this search may not be mandatory for a mortgage lender. Any actual risks found will invariably be listed as in need of further assessment, so if it is known that a property sits in an area impacted by a natural hazard a more specialist search may be worth ordering at the outset. Legal representatives will not normally be qualified to provide advice on any risks disclosed by this search.

Coal Mining & Brine Searches, Flood Risk Assessments and, to a lesser extent these days, Chancel Repair Liability, are but an example of matters which may be advisable to order for a specific transaction and these should be discussed with your legal representative.

The information provided in all of our blogs reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic. The blogs do not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Please see our website terms and conditions for full details of our disclaimer. If you are interested in obtaining advice, please contact one of our lawyers who will be happy and able to advise you on your own particular circumstances.

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