What do searches reveal and why are they needed in a house purchase?

If you are buying a property, your conveyancer will carry out a number of searches on your behalf. We take a look at the searches you will be advised to have and why they are necessary.

A property is a big investment and it is important to ensure that there will not be any nasty surprises in the future. Searches can reveal information about the local area and infrastructure, environmental risks and potential new developments that you might want to know about before you become legally bound to complete your purchase. If you will be taking out a mortgage, then your lender will insist that these searches are carried out so that it can be sure that the property is a sound investment. Anything out of the ordinary will need to be reported to your lender so that they can decide whether they are prepared to lend.

Local authority search

This will provide a range of information from the local authority’s records, including whether there are any property developments in the area, what planning consents have been issued in respect of the property, whether the property is listed and whether it is in a conservation area.

Water and drainage search

Enquiries of the local water authority are intended to establish that they are responsible for the water mains and sewers and whether the authority owns any pipes that run onto the property.

Environmental search

This can reveal potential environment risks, to include nearby premises that deal with chemicals, previous uses of the land, potential contamination, ground stability, landslips, nearby landfill or former landfill and whether the property is on a flood plain.

Flood report

For some properties, a separate flood report is recommended. This can provide information about any history of flooding and the potential future flood risk. It will include data in respect of a range of flooding, including river, coastal, groundwater and surface water risks. It will also give a risk assessment level and information about whether the property could be difficult to insure. If the risk of flooding is high, this must be reported to your insurer as well as to your mortgage lender.

Mining and quarrying searches

Some areas have a history of mining or quarrying, to include for coal, china clay, tin, stone and brine Your conveyancer will be able to advise whether you need a search in respect of any of these issues. A search will generally reveal issues such as old workings near the property or capped mine shafts.

Radon testing

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in many areas, with higher levels in some parts of the country. It seeps into properties and can increase the risk of lung cancer where it is present in higher than average concentrations. An environmental search will generally tell you whether a property is in an area classed as a ‘Radon Affected Area’ by the UK Health Security Agency. You can ask for a radon test to be carried out to identify the levels of radon present and your solicitor can also ask the seller if they have had a test done in the past. While a test can be done over a three-month period, it is also possible to have a shorter ten-day test carried out. Where higher than average levels of radon are present, remedial action will be necessary to remove the gas.

Land Registry and bankruptcy searches

A Land Registry search checks the registered title to the property at the Land Registry prior to completion, while a bankruptcy search ensures that the seller is not bankrupt as, if they were, they would not be entitled to sell the property.

If you are thinking of moving home, speak to one of our expert property solicitors, ring us on 0345 241 3100 or email us at mail@cplaw.co.uk

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