Property Searches – An overview
Your solicitor will, when letting you have an estimate for their fees include in that estimate a figure for the costs of property searches. It is important to know firstly, what these searches cover and what they are for and secondly, what risk is there if they are not done.
What follows is a guide as to the searches that would normally be carried out in every transaction but you should note that further searches may be required depending on the type of property and its location
Local Authority Search
This search is made with the local authority within which the property is located. If there is a County Council the results will include the information that they hold on the property too.
This search is specific to the property and will give no information as to the surrounding properties or any developments close to it.
It will give important information regarding the property such as planning, building control and environmental issues. The local authority’s records may only go back so far and any early planning or building control consents may not be revealed. London Boroughs, for instance, may only go back to 1977 when the GLC as it then was, was formed and many parish councils were amalgamated in to one London Borough.
If there has been any breach of planning permission or of building regulations then it is the current owner who will be liable to remedy any enforcement action the council may take so it is important to have a history as to the property. Any missing consents or permissions can then be covered by indemnity insurance paid for, normally by the seller.
A Local Authority Search will reveal other matters such as Tree Preservation Orders, adopted roads, proposed road improvements, new rail lines, HS2, Cross Rail, etc.
This search does not reveal anything regarding the area in which the property is situated. This could be important as you may want to know whether there are any other business in the area that could compete with yours or if there are likely to be any developments close by that would affect your use of the premises. In this instance you should consider having a Development Assessment Search carried out
Development Assessment Search
As the name implies this is a search of the surrounding district (usually within a 75m radius) that will highlight any opportunity for any new developments in the area. It will also show types of business there are within the area that may compete with yours.
Drainage and Water Searches
This search will give you information as to the connection of the property to the sewers and water supply. A plan of the supply pipes and drains will also be supplied. This could be important as any sewers or pipes crossing the land could increase the costs of any future development.
This will enable you to assess the risk of the land being contaminated prior to you entering in to a contract for the purchase. If the land is found to be contaminated then the local authority can require the occupier of the land to deal with the contamination prior to development of the land.
This assesses the risk to the property of four types of flooding, river flooding, coastal flooding, surface water flooding and ground water flooding. Flooding can affect the insurance cover for the property and also the value of the property so it is important to know the risks.
Chancel Repair Search
Chancel Tax is a feudal tax that goes back to medieval times. The local parish church may be able to levy a tax on land owners for the up keep of the Chancel of the church. This search indicates if a property may be liable to contribute toward this but it does not indicate if there is any actual liability. Chancel Tax is a very complex subject that requires knowledge of the history of the Church going back to the 12th century and no approach should be made to the local Vicar or Rector as this could affect the availability of Indemnity Insurance. If the search reveals a possible liability then the sellers of the property will be asked to put in place Chancel Repair Indemnity Insurance.