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When purchasing property, local authority searches are always required and are simply a standard list of questions about the property and utilities that are sent to the local council by the buyers’ solicitor. However, the search can take up to three weeks to be returned and this is a factor that can sometimes delay the ability of a chain to exchange. If a full local search is not required to be carried out then, (if the lender agrees), the solicitor can obtain local search indemnity insurance to protect the lender against any problem that might have been revealed in a local search.

There is a fee charged for this service which reveals any proposed changes to the local area, such as:

  • Changing the street into a busy road;
  • Proposed road and railway improvements and footpaths;
  • Water searches or the applicable private water company to ascertain the situation of water and sewage connections and facilities;
  • Whether permission has been granted for the building of something unpleasant near to the property which might depreciate its value.

The search must stipulate what applications for any of the following have been approved or rejected or whether there is a decision pending by the relevant authority:

  • Building Regulations Approvals;
  • Building Regulations Completion Certificates;
  • Charges on the Property by the Local Authority, a form of security giving the creditor the right to receive payment meaning that the new owner would be under an obligation to pay the local authority unless payment had already been made before the sale of the land;
  • Compulsory Purchase;
  • Conservation Areas;
  • Contravention of Building Regulations;
  • Highways;
  • Land Required for Public Purposes (such as a footpath);
  • Land Required for Road Works;
  • Listed Building Consents;
  • Nearby Railway Schemes;
  • Nearby Road Schemes;
  • Outstanding Notices in Relation to Building Works, Environment, Health and Safety, Housing, Highways or Public Health;
  • Planning Designations and Proposals;
  • Planning Enforcement – Notices, Orders, Directions and Proceedings under Planning Acts;
  • Planning Permissions;
  • Radon Gas;
  • Traffic Schemes.

Chancel Repair Search

In the past, when the Church sold off or gifted land they sometimes required the new owner to pay towards the upkeep of the church or its lands
Some property is still subject to this  liability and there is a well publicised case of where an unsuspecting couple were forced to pay hundreds of thousands of pound to the church because their property was subjected to this liability.

Commons Registration Search

This search is typical of properties that front a village green or common land and means that the public have rights to pass over it and occasionally to graze sheep and cattle or to gather wood.

Drainage And Water Search

This is a search of the registers of the water authority local to the property and it must cover the following:

  • Adoption of Water Mains and Service Pipes;
  • Building over a Public Sewer, Disposal Main or Drain;
  • Charges Following Change of Occupation;
  • Connections to Mains Water Supply;
  • Current Basis for Sewerage and Water Charges;
  • Foul Drainage and Surface Water;
  • Map of the Water Works;
  • Public Adoption of Sewers and Lateral Drains;
  • Public Sewer Maps;
  • Public Sewers within the Boundary of the Property;
  • Public Sewers Near to the Property;
  • Risk of Flooding (due to overloaded public sewers);
  • Risk of Low Water Pressure or Flooding;
  • Sewerage and Water Undertakers;
  • Sewerage Bills;
  • Sewage Treatment Works;
  • Surface Water Drainage Charges;
  • Water Mains, Resource Mains or Discharge Pipes;
  • Water Meters;
  • Water Quality Analysis;
  • Water Quality Standards.

Environmental Search

An environmental search is carried out with an environmental search agency agency to check whether the land on which the property is built has been contaminated, although the law does not currently require local authorities to keep a register of contaminated land.
New properties are often built on old landfill sites or on sites that were previously used for commercial purposes.

It is now a legal requirement that developers survey land intended for building to ensure it is not contaminated and if it is, then the developer must decontaminate the land before building on it.
However, this hasn’t always been the case and so some properties have been built on land that is contaminated.
An environmental search will also check whether the property is affected by flooding or other environmental risks or hazards, such as factories or commercial outlets nearby.

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