Your Conveyancer carries out many tasks in order to carry out due diligence 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.
There are also many other searches and reports which may be required to ensure you have all the necessary information on the property you wish to buy.
Welcome to Chapter 12 of our Series, your Conveyancing Questions Answered All in One Place: Local and Other Searches
Why the Need for Searches ?
Ensuring there are no defects with the legal title to your property is vitally important.
But, there may be specific details about the property and the area of which you may have been unaware.
Bottom line: you don’t want any nasty surprises after you move into your new home either immediately or possible a couple of years down the line.
"Bottom line: you don’t want any nasty surprises after you move into your new home either immediately or possible a couple of years down the line."
This is why there is a need for a Local Authority Search, other geographical specific searches, Water and Drainage searches and an Environmental Report.
We have posted a few times over the years and our post “What a Local Search Will Unlock in Your New Home" has been one of our most read posts.
As part of our new series “Your Conveyancing Questions Answered” we have taken the opportunity to update and broaden that post.
When Will The Searches and Reports Be Commissioned?
Your Conveyancer commissions the searches to kick off the Conveyancing Process on your Purchase, as soon as a suitable plan is available.
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 – more later in the series).
"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."
There may be other less common searches required depending on where you are purchasing. We’ve listed the other searches later in this post.
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 and is updated every few years as regulations and responsibilities change.
The current Local Search is the 2016 edition with around 65 questions together often referred to as the Standard Local Search.
Roads and Railways:
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.
The updated question in the 2016 Enquiries of Local Authority is:
3.5 Nearby railway schemes
a. Is the property (or will it be) within 200metres of the centre line of a proposed railway, tramway, light railway or monorail?
Is the Property an Asset of the Community?
This is question that has been included since the Localism Act 2011 came into force.
Chapter 3 of the Localism Act came into force in September 2012.
The Act allows communities to apply to their local council to have a building listed as an 'asset of community value'.
Such an asset could be for example a pub. The council can approve the listing if it considers the building's current use (or use in the recent past with a prospect of being revived) "furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community" and is likely to continue to do so.
The Search will reveal if the property is located in an area where it may be affected by Radon Gas. You can read more about Radon Gas in one of our older posts.
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?
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.
3. How long will it take?
Timescales vary around the country.
Companies such as Conveyancing Data Services collect information on the efficiency of Local Authorities. Local Authorities are graded on Turnaround Times (TATs)
Most authorities take about a week such as Bristol and South Gloucestershire but a few take 6 weeks such as (at the time of writing) West Dorset and North Wiltshire taking 45 and 42 days respectively.
4. How much will it cost?
The cost of the Search also varies from around £100 – £200
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 Reveal
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 have any concerns 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.
The Water and Drainage Search
Most Conveyancing Solicitors will now carry one out a Water and Drainage Search as a matter of course.
The search will inform solicitors if the property is properly serviced and also identify any liabilities for which the new owner may be liable.
“Commons” and not so common searches
Chancel Repair Liability
Chancel Repair liability is an ancient law which could still affect property in England and Wales.
Property owners in the vicinity of a medieval or earlier church could be asked to contribute some or all of the repairs to the Chancel of the Church.
The Chancel is where the altar lies and pretty much the east end of the Church.
Conveyancing Solicitors will carry out a Chancel Repair Liability search for you in certain circumstances; some Conveyancing Solicitors will carry out the Chancel Repair search by default.
We will return to Chancel Repair Liability in more detail later in the series but if you can’t wait click here or a fuller investigation.
Common Land and Village Greens
If the property you are purchasing is close to or separated from the road by “common land or a village green”, your Conveyancing Solicitor will insist on carrying out a commons search.
Commons searches are crucial in such circumstances.
In general, no development is allowed where land has been registered and designated as a common or a town or village green.
Coal Mining Search
There are obviously areas of the country where the effects of past coal mining are still clear. Such areas include South Wales, the East Midlands and Yorkshire and Northumberland
Other areas are not so obvious where the coal workings may have ceased over a hundred years ago.
In my neck of the woods, if you are buying a property in Bristol or in the former Somerset Coal Field, the threat of past coal mining may not be so obvious - unless you are buying somewhere with a clue in the title, such as Coalpit Heath in South Gloucestershire.
Some searches have a purely regional tint: Conveyancing in Cheshire; Conveyancing in Great Manchester or Droitwich Spa will normally require a Brine Search.
Conveyancing in Dudley or Conveyancing in Sandwell, Walsall or Wolverhampton will flag up a Limestone search.
If you are buying and having your Conveyancing in West Devon or Cornwall then invariably a Tin search will be advisable.
These searches are common when Conveyancing is carried out in Dorset, West Devon or Cornwall.
Regional searches are relevant, even where any such mining operations may have ceased many years ago as a risk of subsidence remains a possibility.
If you are also taking out a mortgage, your Lender will need to have such information before it decides to lend money on the property.
Your Conveyancing solicitor will look at each Conveyancing transaction on its merits.