Property searches are one of the most vital elements of conveyancing. These searches, which provide minute detail of the property you are buying, act like pieces of a jigsaw that your solicitor puts together to build a complete picture of what the house or flat looks like and also what the area surrounding it looks like, too. The fees for most searches are fixed by the provider and your solicitor will not charge you anything on top of the levied charge.
When you are buying with a mortgage, your lender is likely to insist that a local authority search be carried out once you have made an offer on a property. This search actually involves submitting several forms that are then filled in by the council to provide a variety of information that includes:
- If the property is a listed building
- If it’s located in a conservation area
- If it’s subject to a tree protection order
- If an improvement or renovation grant is required
- If it’s situated in a smoke-control zone
- Any future developments
- Building control and planning history
- Contaminated land and radon gas-affected area
- Nearby roads, motorways and rail schemes
- Environmental and pollution notices
- Common land, town and village greens nearby
The detailed Planning Search reveals the details of any existing planning consents or applications within a 250-metre radius of a property.
A Drainage and Water Search from the local water authority will provide information on the water supply to the property, if it is connected to mains water and sewerage and who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the water and drainage supply. This search will also pinpoint the local of the nearest public sewer and whether there is a public sewer within the property’s boundaries
The Environmental Search explores the past uses of the land the property you want to buy stands on. It will reveal if there is any contamination or other environmental concerns that could affect the property.
A Flood Risk Report is essential if the property you intend to buy is near a river, coastline or reservoir. This search will show if there is a risk of flooding in the area and how high the risk is.
A Coal Search is required in areas where coal mining has historically taken place or is still taking place through opencast mining. This search also indicates if there is any proposal for coal mining in the future. Excavated tunnels underneath the property may pose a risk of subsidence.
A Brine Search is required in parts of Cheshire and Greater Manchester where salt is extracted from underground and pumped up as brine. As with coal mining, brine extraction brings a risk of subsidence.
The planned high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham and the north-west, known as HS2, is a long-term project that is expected to take around 20 years to complete. An HS2 search will reveal if the property you want to buy will be affected the extensive works that are to be carried out along the planned route.
A Chancel Repair Liability Search is a standard part of conveyancing in England and Wales and focuses on the historic standing of a property in relation to its local Church of England parish. Under chancel repair liability, homeowners whose property is within the parish of a church built before 1536 can be held liable for repairs to the church’s altar or chancel.
Parishes had to register their claim to have these repairs paid with the Land Registry by October 2013. There are thought to be around 5,300 affected parishes across England and Wales.
If the search reveals the property has a chancel repair liability, your solicitor may recommend you take out insurance to cover you for your share of any large bills due to the local parish church.