19 January, 2015
Property 'searches' are not to be confused with the long and gruelling hunt for the perfect home. The searches in question here will be carried out by the buyer's solicitor once that hunt is over. They are incredibly important in helping a buyer - and the mortgage company - make an informed decision before investing in a property.
The term 'property searches' covers a huge number of different options offered by Local Government, Government Agencies, utilities and commercial organisations. There are over 60 different searches available, the most common ones include: Local Authority, Plansearch, Environmental search, Coal Authority, Land Registry Searches, Central Land Charges, Bankruptcy Register and Drainage.
Searches will provide the buyer with information about any potential restrictions, benefits and conditions which may affect the property and ultimately the new owner's life there. Not all searches available will be necessary for every property, but the solicitor will need to make the relevant ones before contracts can be exchanged.
A Local Authority Search looks at a number of things but will flag up whether the council has issued any formal notice affecting the property. This could be something such as breach of planning regulations, a compulsory purchase order or notice of debt owed to the council. This search only relates to the area of land being purchased and not to the surrounding area.
On the other hand, a Plansearch will look into whether any recent planning applications have been submitted that may have bearing on the property or area surrounding it. This will reveal any planned changes within a 250 metre radius and gives details of other recorded data including installations such as radio masts or public footpaths. This makes for quite a handy - and therefore popular - search, as it would be great to know in advance if that lovely meadow at the back of the new bungalow is likely to become a new superstore any time soon!
Land Registry searches are integral for providing legal evidence of title to the land, proving it has been registered in England and Wales. Most properties are formally identified at the Land Registry. Its Index Map reveals if the whole of the land being bought is registered or unregistered, and if successful will issue a copy of the title to the buyer's solicitor. If, however, the title is not registered, additional searches should be made against the seller's name on the Central Land Charges Register.
A Bankruptcy search quite simply looks at the buyer as opposed to the property and is required by mortgage lenders.
An Environmental Search looks at registered activities in the area and covers a host of potential issues from land contamination to flooding. Mining searches by the Coal Authority are only really relevant in areas where coal mining took (or takes) place. In these areas the search is essential to understand any environmental impact like subsidence. There are also similar searches for China Clay and Limestone mining activities. Drainage searches are also important - these are made to the relevant water company and can flag up any potential issues with public water and sewage networks with regard to the property.
Buying a house is certainly not a small decision - or purchase - so it's important to be aware of all the implications involved in the decision. A licensed conveyancer can assist when it comes to knowing which surveys need to be carried out, ensuring the buyer is able to make an informed decision ahead of the big purchase.