Searches

Some of the most frequently arising queries in conveyancing concern conveyancing searches:

What are conveyancing searches?

When you purchase a property you should have in mind the phrase ‘buyer beware’.  You will be buying the property ‘as seen’.  This means both its physical condition and its legal status.

You can assess the physical status to some extent yourself and you may wish to pay for a surveyor to inspect the property more expertly.  In terms of its legal status your conveyancer will check the legal title to make sure that the seller owns the property and is entitled to transfer it to you.  But they will also wish to check whether anybody else has any rights over the property, whether there are any notices affecting the property and whether there is anything in the local vicinity that might affect your enjoyment of the property.  In order to do this they will have to conduct ‘searches’ with various organisations.  These searches normally take the form of a list of questions which the organisation will answer based on the information they hold.

The ‘normal’ searches are:

Local Authority

This reveals details of records maintained by the local authority.  Amongst other things it will reveal the planning and buildings regulations history of the property, proposals for new road schemes in the area, whether the property adjoins a public highway, if the property is in a conservation area and whether any trees on the property have a preservation order.

Environmental Search

It has become common practice to carry out an environmental search.  The search reveals many details about the property not covered by the scope of the local authority search.  Key results are whether there are any landfill sites or waste disposal dumps in the area, if the property has been built on an old industrial site or whether the land is at risk from contamination, toxic emissions, flooding, subsidence or radioactivity.

Land Charges Search

This is a search against your name to make sure you have not been declared bankrupt.  This will be a requirement if you are buying with a mortgage.

Land Registry Search

This is carried out just before your purchase is completed to make sure no new mortgages have been registered against the property.  If they have your conveyancer will seek confirmation that they will be discharged on completion.

Water & Drainage

This will show whether or not the property is connected to a public sewer and the extent of any private drains for which the buyer will be responsible.

Other searches that may be recommended to you, depending on the location of the property, include:

  • British Waterways
  • Chancel
  • China Clay
  • Coal Mining
  • Commons Registration
  • Gypsum Mining
  • Lead Mining
  • Tin Mining

Do I have to have conveyancing searches?

If you are buying with a mortgage you will need to have satisfactory results from whatever searches are deemed appropriate to cover the interests of your lender.

If you are a cash buyer you can proceed without searches but it is not recommended. If you do not wish to have searches your conveyancer will highlight the risk to you and then ask you to sign a statement that you did not want to conduct the searches to show that they have carried out their duty to you.

How much will the searches cost?

For many of the searches this will depend on the location of the property.  For instance each local authority charges a different amount for its local search.  You will need to talk to your conveyancer about this.

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