Searches are part of the conveyancing process and are advisable when buying or leasing land or property. They detail important information about a property covering a wide range of issues from planning permissions and building regulation consents to environmental assessments of the historic use of a property.
If your purchase is supported by a lender, they will either require a full set of searches to be done or insist on a search indemnity insurance policy being put in in place.
If you are purchasing or leasing a property using your own funds, you are free to make your own decision as to which searches (if any) you require.
As your solicitor, our advice will always be that you should instruct us to submit all of the searches listed below where relevant to the nature and type of property:
Types of searches
We would advise a purchaser to obtain searches that include the following:
Index map search
(£4.00 plus VAT)
An index map search confirms whether a property is registered at the Land Registry (and, if so, the title number(s) under which it is registered). If a property is not registered, an index map search will show whether a property is subject to any pending applications for registration or any cautions against first registration. It will also reveal whether the property is subject to any registrations in favour of the owners of mines and minerals beneath the property.
Local authority search
(Including any optional and additional enquiries. Approximately £115 - £200 per search with additional fees for optional enquiries and with properties covering a larger area, more than one search may be required.)
A local authority search reveals important information about a property, such as planning permissions and building regulation consents, proposals for road schemes and environmental and pollution notices. It will also reveal the existence of public rights of way and whether a highway has been adopted. A local authority search only reveals matters that affect the property being searched against. It will not disclose matters that affect neighbouring properties.
Drainage and water enquiries
(Approximately £250 - £500 plus VAT with United Utilities. With properties covering a larger area, more than one search may be required.)
The replies to drainage and water enquiries show whether a property is connected to the mains water supply and mains drainage. The replies may also show the location of public sewers within the boundary of a property and other such matters that may restrict development.
(Approximately £200 - £1,000 plus VAT depending on provider and quotation)
An environmental data search can be used to establish the risk of land being contaminated, by collating information from regulatory bodies, floodplain data and a review of current and historic land uses. This type of search is also known as a "desktop search". An environmental data search does not include a site visit or testing of soil or groundwater samples.
If a local authority determines that land is contaminated, and the party who caused the contamination cannot be found, the current owner or occupier of the land may be required to remedy the contamination. This can be an expensive process, so it is important to assess the risk of land being contaminated before committing to buy a property.
Coal mining search
(Subject to quote at time of search)
A coal mining search provides details of past, present and future coal mining activity at a property. The search also indicates whether there are mine shafts on the property and whether any mining activities may cause subsidence. It is possible to determine whether this search is required before it is requested. Therefore, there will be some properties to which this type of search will not be required.
Chancel check search
(£24-£75 plus VAT)
A chancel repair search shows whether the owner of a property may be liable to contribute towards the cost of repairs to the chancel of a parish church. We would advise you not to contact any parish churches directly in relation to chancel repair liability, as this may limit the availability of indemnity insurance.
If this search reveals the land is located in a parish which continues to have potential chancel repair liability, although there may be no evidence that chancel repair payments have been required, there is a risk that liability could be incurred. We are only aware of one or two incidents in the last 30 years or so in which liability was incurred after several years of ownership of the property in the same situation.
Assuming that exchange and completion take place simultaneously, indemnity insurance will not be required. If completion takes place days or weeks after exchange there is a risk that a chancel repair liability could be registered against the property in the period between exchange and completion.
If you want to guard against the risk of chancel respire liability we would advise you to consider taking out a Chancel Repair indemnity insurance policy to protect your property from any potential liability. If you wish, we will obtain a quote for such an insurance policy to be taken out and let you know how much it will cost.
Gypsum Mining Search
(Approximately £25 plus VAT)
This search shows whether a property is built on or near to a former Gypsum mine. It also reveals the proximity of mine workings to the property, when the mine was worked, the depth of workings and if there are any planning consents to carry out workings.
It is possible to determine whether this search is required before it is requested. Therefore, there will be some properties to which this type of search will not be required.