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What are ‘searches’?

When your conveyancer or solicitor informs you that they will be ordering searches for your intended purchase of a property, what does that mean? What are these ‘searches’ and why do you need them?

Since 1975, property law in this country has required that ‘Local Land Charges searches’ are carried out with the local council for all property transactions.

What does that mean?

This search looks to find any entries relating to your property in the Local Land Charges Register and a series of inquiries about the property. The register contains a variety of legal requirements, notices and agreements with varying effects on the property.

Is the tree in the garden protected?

Am I likely to get the planning permission I am considering, based on the planning history?

Is the property listed or in a conservation area? Highways Agreements for the future maintenance of new roads are also revealed among other ‘charges’.

The inquiries that go with that form go even more in depth and will give a full planning history including any pending applications, outstanding notices for housing issues, roads status given in depth, location of public footpaths and proposals for land use for the surrounding area can prove very important.

Other issues include transport proposals which may prove of interest such as road widening, new bus routes, cycle lanes etc.

Up to 1990 that was the only search you needed or was available.

In that year, drainage issues were taken out of that search and required a separate report from the water authority.

This is important to find out who is responsible for all the drains and sewers attached to the property and where they are.

Planning an extension?

You may want to know that your main drain in the back garden is only two feet down!

During that period, environmental searches and other reports started to become available.

This enabled your solicitor to find out about a whole new vast amount of information for you.

Past contaminated land use, radon gas levels, flood risk, underground workings, ground stability etc.

And a full range of extra reports depending on location such as HS2 , fracking, mining, London Underground, Japanese Knotweed and a full planning assessment of applications in the neighbourhood, not just this property.

So now you have a choice and can expect to pay anything up to £200 for the whole ‘pack’ of searches, but I hope you now can see the wealth of valuable information you are getting for your money.