Conveyancing: Why perform searches? - 09 Feb 2011
When you are purchasing a new home, a piece of land, a business premises or a farm you may wonder why your lawyer is applying for searches and making enquiries.
The searches are carried out to identify from the available information whether the property is what you expected and whether you can do what you wish with it. If you require a mortgage the lender will also insist the searches are performed.
Local Authority Search
The Local Authority Search provides information such as planning applications and building regulation notices which have been submitted to the local authority. These are used to build a picture of any alterations to the property and to identify whether any have been performed without the necessary consents.
In addition the search identifies where the nearest highway, this is used (amongst other things) to identify potential “ransom strips” between the property and the highway. You may have heard of owners of adjoining land holding their neighbours to ransom over access to their land. These can be very costly to a landowner.
Other useful information is revealed such as whether the building is listed, within a conservation area or has other restrictions such as an agricultural occupation only dwelling or affordable housing. Some restrictions can place significant obligations on you as the new owner and effect what you can and can’t do with the property. Of course these can also affect the value of the property.
Drainage and Water Search
This search ensures that the property is connected to a public water main and sewer and shows their location. This assists your lawyer to identify whether rights are required over neighbouring land for the run of the private pipes and drains to and from the public water main and sewer.
Other useful information revealed includes notices of low water pressure and water quality failures.
Chancel Liability Search
Chancel Repair Liability is the obligation of the property owner to contribute to the repair of medieval churches within its Church of England parish. Surprisingly the property does not need to be located near a church. A search reveals whether or not the property is potentially at risk from the historical records.
If you are purchasing a home I am sure you would be concerned to find that the land is contaminated or polluted. The person liable is primarily the person who caused the contamination although identifying this person is often difficult. The local authority may require the contamination to be cleaned up, the cost of which can be high, if the person who caused the contamination cannot be found the current owner or occupier is left with the cleanup bill!
An environmental search lists information such as past industrial use of the property or land and nearby land, helping to identify these risks. It also identifies if the property is potentially at risk of flooding or in a mining area.
Whilst the Local Authority Search reveals planning applications in relation to the property you are purchasing it does not reveal planning applications in the local vicinity. For example there could be an application for a housing development or an industrial estate adjacent to the property, which could affect the value and character of the property. A planning search identifies applications within the local vicinity providing peace of mind.
Title Documents: Land Registry Title and Title Deeds
If the property is registered the land registry title provides a significant amount of information, however the bundle of title deeds and documents are still necessary and are absolutely necessary with unregistered land.
The title documents identify if the property is affected by covenants, the extent of the property on a plan and any rights which benefit the property or other neighbouring property. This information is cross referenced with all of the search results and information disclosed to ensure the necessary rights are available and to identify issues which may effect your enjoyment or use of the property.
Enquiries of the Seller
The seller will provide some initial information and based on the search results enquiries will be made by your lawyer to identify any missing information, clarify any issues or inaccuracies in the information provided and raise any potential issues identified from their investigations.
There are many other searches which may be necessary. Your lawyer will advise which should be made depending on the type and location of the property.
This may all sound very concerning, however with the correct advice it need not be.
Choosing the right lawyer is always important.
Over recent years the conveyancing market has been flooded with firms who use call centres to perform conveyancing where each property purchase is treated as just another job and not the purchase of someone’s home or business.
A property is usually the largest purchase that most people or businesses make, you need to know what you are buying. A good lawyer will provide you with a full report on the legal aspects of the property. Many of the issues highlighted above may be resolved with corrective action by the lawyer, others may be insured against by a one-off insurance policy and a few may not have a solution.
At Paul Finn Solicitors we pride ourselves on performing a full investigation of your property putting you in the know so that you can relax and enjoy your new property.
Solicitor, Paul Finn Solicitors
Tel: 01288 356 256