Feb 16

Conveyancing searches – what you need to know


As you may be aware, part of buying a property involves applying for several searches to be carried out on the property.

If you are purchasing with the aid of a mortgage then the searches are compulsory and will be applied for as soon as possible. If you are a cash buyer, it is entirely up to you whether you have all searches carried out, one search or none at all.

Even if you are a cash buyer, a prudent conveyancer will always recommend that you at least have a Local Authority Search carried out. The search provides the planning history of the property and any works that have been carried out under building regulations (for example, new windows, gas or electrical works). It will also confirm if the road is adopted by the Local Authority and whether the property is affected by any adverse matters such as an Enforcement Notice, Traffic Schemes, a Smoke Control Order or a Tree Preservation Order. The search also reveals if the property is affected by radon gas.

The benefit of the Local Authority Search is that you are provided with a fuller picture of the property. You will know if the property has had any extension large enough to require planning permission and also if any works have been carried to the windows, cavity wall and electrics. The search will also reveal any issue such as any extension not having been signed off by Building Control and therefore not having a Completion Certificate. The limitation is that the search only covers the property and not the surrounding areas. Therefore it does not reveal if there are plans for a new Development in the area or what the neighbours are up to!

Another search that is available is a Water and Drainage Search. This search confirms if the property is connected to foul water and surface water drainage and the main water supply. The search will also reveal if the property is connected to a water meter or is subject to a Buildover Agreement. The result also contains plans showing the run of the drains and sewers. The plans are useful for identifying if any extension may have been built over the drains or within three meters of the same. This would require a Buildover Agreement.

Further, an Environmental Search will confirm if the property is built on contaminated land. As conveyancers we are not qualified to advise on the results of the search as it is outside of our remit and expertise. However, if the search result is ‘referred’ or has ‘failed’ then further investigation is required and the result will also have to be reported to any mortgage lender. Indemnity Policies are available to cover contaminated land but they can come with several caveats such as the property should not be built on the site of an old filling station or within a certain distance of the railway line.

Depending on the area in which the property is situated then other searches may well be required. For example, it is common to carry out a mining search for property located in Cornwall. Another search that is becoming ‘popular’ is an Energy and Infrastructure Search, which details potential fracking sites, the High Speed Rail network and sites for wind and/or solar farms.

If you are buying a property in Chichester, West Sussex or Alton, Hampshire please give us a call for more information about the conveyancing process.