A Conveyancing Search conducted prior to the purchase of a property is an investigation designed to uncover specific and important details about the property. The information uncovered may have a serious impact on a person’s decision to buy the property or the value they place on it.
Searches may disclose information which may affect its value, the cost of maintaining it, its re-sale value, its habitability, or expenditure relating to the property.
There are a number of different types of searches:
Local Authority Search
The scope of the Local search is vast, looking into the planning and building regulation approval records for the property and the Local Land Charges register showing matters such as conservation areas and Tree Preservation Orders etc. The search will advise if the Local Authority plan to compulsory purchase the land and if the main road leading to the property is adopted. This search is compulsory in all cases.
Please note that the Local Authority Search only reveals information relating to your property. If you have any enquiries concerning land or buildings nearby then please arrange to call at the Planning Department of the Local Authority who will assist.
A plan search can be carried out at additional expense to ascertain if there are any planning proposals at neighbouring properties.
Water and Drainage Search
This search is optional although normally required if you are having a mortgage. The Water and Drainage Search investigates whether or not the property is connected to the mains water supply and whether the drainage and sewers are maintained by the water company, or whether they are the responsibility of the property’s owner.
The search also shows a plan detailing the public sewers and the public water supply. Unfortunately the private sewers are not shown and this search is not a foolproof method of finding out the location and direction of the private sewers.
The Environmental Search is carried out in order to ascertain whether or not the property is affected by factors such as flooding, landslides or subsidence in the general area (this doesn’t replace a structural survey). It should also reveal whether the property is near to any waste/landfill sites, energy issues such as wind farms and solar panel farms and the subsequent effect on the local environment such as air quality.
You should receive a certificate stating that the land you are purchasing is not subject to any adverse environmental matters which is useful for two reasons:
- You will receive confirmation that the land is not considered to be contaminated and therefore you should not be liable as a property owner for the cost of cleaning up the land; and
- You will know that when you come to sell the property there shouldn’t be any problems associated with an adverse search result when your buyer carries this out the same search.
Commons Registration Search
This is a search to establish whether the land which is being purchased is registered as Common Land in accordance with the Commons Registration Act 1965.
If the property is in a rural area or if access is gained to it over open land then it may be wise to carry out a search. If land is Common then certain members of the local community (though not everyone as is the frequent misconception) have a right to access it on foot and to use it for purposes such as village fetes, grazing, etc., however no-one can use Common Land and registered town or village greens for vehicular access.
If the land itself is revealed to be Common Land then there is nothing that can be done – it cannot be de-registered – and the situation should be reported to the purchaser and lender.
In the unlikely event that the property itself is built on Common Land then it should not be there and according to the law the County Council can order it to be removed. If part of the land which is not built upon is Common then it should be reported that it is open to access by the public and should not be fenced in. If the access to the property is on Common land then the purchaser and lender should be advised that they may only access the property on foot – vehicular rights cannot exist over common land.