(You can also find out why we're leading the top ten firms in Scunthorpe for residential purchase completions on our Conveyancing page!)

If you have previously bought a property or possibly may be buying a property for the first time you will come across the term Conveyancing Searches.

But what are Searches? And before your mind starts flying off in the wrong direction it does not mean the solicitor has lost your file and is on the hunt for it!!!

What are searches?

In simple terms when you buy a property you will buy it subject to any entries registered against the property in the records of the Local Authority, Water and Drainage Authority and Environmental Authority. It is important therefore that your solicitor checks the records held by these authorities to ensure there are no horrible nasties registered against the property. It is of course essential that these checks are completed before the buyer signs the purchase contract on the dotted line. These checks are called searches.

What might be revealed by these Searches?

By way of example the local authority search will show the planning permission and building regulation history of the property. This should hopefully confirm all necessary permissions have been obtained for the original building and also any subsequent extensions.

Please note that if the local authority were ever to bring any enforcement proceedings for lack of permissions such proceedings would be issued against the current owner even if the non-approved works were undertaken by a former owner.

The search should also reveal any enforcement proceedings that are currently ongoing. As well as planning issues the local search also makes enquiries relating to the roads serving the property and the existence of any public rights of way affecting the property.  The water and drainage search makes similar enquiries of the separate water authority to ensure the property has the necessary rights of drainage and, for example, that no building or extension is built over a public sewer in breach of regulations.

The environmental search will reveal detailed information regarding past flooding and environmental issues affecting the property.

Are there any other searches available?

Depending on the locality of the property other property specific searches may be needed or recommended. These include coal mining searches, Cornish tin mining, Church chancel repair etc.

Can I buy a property without these searches?

If you are obtaining a mortgage from a bank or building society the lender will insist (to fully protect their money) that these searches are carried out and that no adverse entries are revealed. This is non-negotiable on the part of the lender.

If you are in the fortunate position of being able to pay cash for the property you are to buy then the buyer could decide to proceed without searches. As solicitors we would however always recommend that searches be done. If you fail to do so, as mentioned above, you would be bound by any adverse entry revealed and could find you are involved in very costly enforcement action with the relevant authority. Equally the search could have warned of certain matters that could have a dramatic effect on the property value. It is too late to find these things out after you have already bought the property.

Who pays for searches?

Even if you are obtaining a mortgage and thus where the lender will insist on searches it will be the buyer who pays.

How long does it take to carry out searches?

I cannot give a fixed timescale. The procedure though is as follows.

The relevant authorities insist on a plan of the property to correctly identify its boundaries. This plan will come from the sellers solicitors with the contract pack of paper.   On receipt the searches are submitted on your behalf.  Currently the searches take approximately 3 weeks to be returned although some local authorities are quicker than others in dealing with matters.

On receipt of the search results these are reviewed by the solicitor. If all is in order matters can proceed. On occasion issues do arise from the search results which will need further investigation. This is where often where delays can arise. No mortgage lender will authorise its mortgage funds to be released until satisfactory responses are obtained to any mattes needing further investigation.

I hope this brief guide is of help.

Can QualitySolicitors Bradbury Roberts & Raby Help?

We certainly can. Unlike some firms who still manually prepare and post search enquiries by snail mail QualitySolicitors Bradbury Roberts & Raby utilise the latest technology. All our searches are submitted online. We also receive the results of the search enquiries online immediately the search enquiries are completed by the authority concerned.  This knocks several days off the time some lawyers take to deal with matters. We will deal with all this administration for you.

By Robert Taylor, Conveyancing Consultant, at QualitySolicitors Bradbury Roberts & Raby