What are Property Searches?
Before you exchange contracts your conveyancer will organise a number of property searches. These are carried out by various bodies and considered essential as they can identify problems with the property you intend to purchase.
The Land Registry does not currently hold such information and problems may not be discoverable by property inspections, which is why it’s important to have relevant searches carried out.
Why are Searches necessary and do I need one?
If you discover problems after you have exchanged contracts to buy a property, it will be too late to back out of the purchase and you will also not be entitled to any compensation from the seller.
This could lead to a number of problems, including:
- Not being able to get a mortgage
- Finding the property is worth much less than you agreed to pay for it
- Finding the property is not safe to live in, or be used lawfully
This is why you should have the necessary searches carried out, as discovering problems before exchanging contracts allows you to deal with any issues.
What happens if problems are discovered through the searches?
There are a number of options available should you encounter problems through one of the property searches:
• Your conveyancer may make further enquiries to see how serious the problem is, and find suitable solutions to the problem.
• You could negotiate a price reduction or take out insurance.
• You might insist the seller deals with the problem before agreeing to exchange contracts.
• You may want a surveyor or builder to advise you on how serious the problem is and whether there are any safety issues.
• You may even decide to withdraw from the transaction should you or your lender find the property unacceptable.
Types of Property Search:
The main types of property search carried out before exchange of contracts include:
Local Authority Search
Your conveyancer can order either a council local search from the local authority, or a regulated local search from a private company.
Both provide the same details, however a regulated local search may be quicker, and provided for a lower cost. Local authorities fees and timescales can vary.
Water and Drainage Search
A water and drainage search will confirm that the property has mains water, whether this is metered, and whether the drainage goes into a public sewer. It will also show on a plan any drains or sewers within the boundaries, or nearby.
This information is important as it could affect any future development plans for the property.
Your conveyancer can choose to order the standard water authority search, or a regulated water and drainage report prepared by a private company, which is drawn up from an inspection of the water authority’s records.
There are many environmental factors that could affect your property, including flooding, contaminated land, fracking, wind farms, and HS2 developments. Your conveyancer will advise you on whether you should make an environmental search.
Mining sites exist across the UK for over 60 different minerals, including coal, brine, tin, chalk, clay and limestone. If your property is situated on a former or current site of underground mining, then you may need to have an expert mining search. This will identify any potential risk of subsidence.
While compensation claims may be made for subsidence damage as a result of coal mining or brine extraction, the physical and financial effects of subsidence caused by other types of mining may fall on you.
Chancel Repairs Search
Chancel Repair liability originated under the tithe system which specified that the land in a parish was liable to pay for any repairs to the church. This liability still exists and affects approximately one third of all parish churches in England and Wales.
Quick and cost-effective searches are available to check whether you are liable to pay for chancel repair.
Conveyancers and lenders generally recommend that you purchase insurance if a potential risk of liability is discovered by the search.
A planning search shows the detailed planning history of the property and its locality over the last 10 years. This is more advanced than a local search, which is only concerned with the subject property and its immediate boundary.
What is a Local Search?
A local search checks for a range of issues that might affect the property and its immediate boundary, such as:
- Planning permissions, listed buildings, and building regulations
- Road adoption agreements, road proposals, and public footpaths
- Statutory notices regarding building works, health and safety, environment etc
Pre-Completion Land Registry searches
After exchange of contracts, and before your purchase is completed, your conveyancer will also make a search at the Land Registry to check the seller isn’t insolvent, and that there are no new mortgages, notices, or restrictions registered against the seller’s legal title.
The search will also give the registration of the transfer to you priority over other claims against the property.
Additional Search Enquiries
There are a number of other optional local searches that your conveyancer might suggest, such as:
• Road Proposals
• Pipelines crossing the property
• Houses in Multiple Occupation (‘HMOs’)
• Noise Abatement
• Environmental or Food Safety Notices