Update: this blog has now been updated, and you can view it here.
There are many components which contribute to the due diligence carried out by your Conveyancer on your new home.
A local, or rather a Local Authority search, is one element and can be very revealing.
Mostly, in a good way, but occasionally not so good
Why the Need?
Simply, it’s essential in every Conveyancing purchase; that is if you don’t want any nasty surprises after you move into your new home.
At one end of the spectrum, you could use the information gleaned to renegotiate a price reduction and at the other end you may decide to pull out of the purchase altogether.
And, if you are taking out a mortgage on your new home your Bank or Building Society will insist.
When Will It Be Commissioned?
The commissioning of searches kicks off the Conveyancing Process on your Purchase.
The Local Authority search forms a part of what we Conveyancing Solicitors tend to call The Search Pack, which includes other searches such as Water and Drainage, Environmental, Chancel Repair Liability (my specialist subject). You can find less common searches here
What Makes Up A Local Authority Search?
The Search is a combination of data from the Land Charges (existing obligations and restrictions) Register (the LLC1) and the Enquiries of the Local Authority (Con 29) for such information about the use of the property and responsibility or otherwise for footpaths and highways.
The Con 29 is a standard form agreed between the Law Society and the Local Government Association with 65 or so questions together often referred to as the Standard Local Search.
We Conveyancing Solicitors like to trot out a few examples of how the results may affect your decision to buy such as a planned motorway or major new road at the bottom of your garden. If you intend to buy a property somewhere between London and Birmingham, the threat of a high-speed railway at the bottom of your garden may be more of a modern example.
Your Conveyancer can also ask optional questions depending on the property at an extra charge
1. Who pays for the Local Search?
The Buyer pays.
When your Conveyancing Solicitor asks you for money on account at the start of your Conveyancing transaction, it is for the local Search and the other searches that may be required.
2. What’s the Difference between Official and Personal?
Anyone can carry out a personal search of the Land Charges Register and obtain most of the information from the public registers.
There are reputable insured Search companies who undertake such searches but an official Local Search can only be carried out by Council staff and signed off by an officer of the Council.
All Local Authorities must carry indemnity insurance for incorrect search results.
In our view why take the risk of relatively untried insurance in a personal rather than an official search?
Some Additional Words of Caution:
Some Conveyancers will use personal searches as a cost cutting exercise; some Conveyancers may not even tell you about the difference; and some Conveyancers are forced to use personal searches if they pay for work from Estate Agents or so called Panel Managers.
Again why take the risk?
3. How long will it take?
Timescales vary around the country.
Most will take between 2 and 5 working days with the worst culprits sometimes (don’t shoot the messenger) taking as long as 7 weeks
4. How much will it cost?
The cost of the Search also varies from £75 to a couple of hundred pounds.
For example, around these parts, Bristol City Council (by email) and South Gloucestershire Council charge £100
5. What’s included?
The Local Authority’s records will indicate:
- If roads and footpaths adjoining the property are publicly maintained?
- If there are plans for any major and/or minor road schemes close to or abutting or affecting the property.
- Provide a list of planning decisions affecting the property.
- State whether the property is on contaminated land.
- State Is the property situated in a conservation area.
- Provide a list of building regulations affecting the property.
- Reveal any enforcement notices for violation of planning permissions against the property.
6. What It Won’t Do
The local authority will definitely not carry out any physical search of the property – it is purely data based.
Surprisingly perhaps, Local Authorities do not guarantee the accuracy of the replies they give. The Local Authority will not typically volunteer specific information about nearby road proposals or new developments unless there has been a formal application for an outline or detailed planning consent.
Your Conveyancing Solicitor will again not actually visit the property you are purchasing. If you are concerned about potential development as your property abuts vacant land or fields you MUST inform your Conveyancing Solicitor, who can make further enquiries on your behalf.
You could also visit the Council’s Planning Office, who can be very helpful in filling in background information for you.
7. Will It Run Out?
Yes –it’s time sensitive so it will run out of puff!
Recent planning proposals after submission of your Search will not be covered.
Most Local Authorities will offer a refresher where the search is over 6 months old to avoid a double charge.
Editor’s Note: The original post was published in 2011
If you are thinking of moving soon and would like a refresher course, download your free Property Bootcamp PDF.