What is a Local Authority Search?
A Local Authority Search is a query into the local area and land where the property you are hoping to buy resides. Local Authority searches are a vital part of the conveyancing process and are undertaken as part of the property searches that come with buying a house.
The process of buying a house comes with a number of legal requirements, conveyancing searches and reports. Each step can be easy to manage and give you a greater understanding of the home you are buying.
The information provided by Local Authority searches could influence the sale - it could reveal, for example, future development plans for an area, or an existing planning consent for another property close by. It could be a reason for you to renegotiate the offer or pull out of the sale completely if you are not satisfied with the findings in the report.
In this article, Compare My Move will explore what’s included in a local authority search and what this means for your property purchase.
Why Do I Need Local Authority Searches?
If you are buying a property with a mortgage, a Local Authority Search is compulsory.
You will need a Local Authority Search to reassure your mortgage lender that the property won’t lose its value. Normally requested by a verified conveyancing solicitor after your offer has been accepted, a local authority search is arguably the most vital search your solicitor will arrange.
The search is carried out through the local authority, or sometimes centrally through HM Land Registry, and will reveal various matters in relation to the property including footpaths, highways, planning and building regulations.
You shouldn't underestimate the importance of a local authority search. Even if you are not using a mortgage to buy a house, proceeding without a Local Authority search is not advised, as the information received from your local authority search can be used to either renegotiate your original house price offer, or even pull out of the purchase completely.
What is Included in a Local Authority Search?
A local authority search comes in two parts, referred to as a LLC1 and a CON29. These searches make sure you know as much as possible about the property you are buying prior to exchange of contracts.
The Local Land Charges Register Search (LLC1) covers:
- Any planning agreements and conditional planning permissions.
- Whether the property is situated in a tree preservation order area.
- Whether the property has a listed building status.
- Any financial charges registered against the property.
- Any required improvement or renovation grant.
- Whether the property is located in a conservation area.
- If the property is located in a smoke control zone.
The Enquiries of the Local Authority (CON29), covers:
- Proposals for new roads, traffic and rail schemes within the vicinity of the property.
- Any planning decisions that could affect the property and the surrounding area in the future.
- Environmental factors such as whether the property is on contaminated land.
- Whether the property is situated in a Radon gas affected area.
- The report will also flag any potential areas of concern such as the risk of subsidence and energy and infrastructure.
CON290 - The Optional Enquiries of Local Authorities Form
A CON290 is different to a CON29. A CON290 may be required to obtain additional information about any changes planned for the future that may affect your property.
This includes searches for:
- Gas pipelines
- Road proposals by private bodies
- Completion notices
- Common land enquiries and flood defences
All information provided in the report is derived from the local authority for the area where you are hoping to purchase a home. Your local council will help you find which local authority your property resides in.
Do Cash Buyers Need Searches?
If you are a cash buyer, it is not mandatory for you to undertake searches as it is your own money which is at risk, rather than a lenders. You can choose to go without searches if you wish, although it is recommended that you do undertake a search for peace of mind before committing to buying the house.
Although not going ahead with searches could initially save you a few hundreds of pounds, not doing so could potentially cost you thousands in the future.
The report will provide you with detailed information about the property and the surrounding areas, allowing you to be aware of anything concerning or any factors which could lower the overall value of the property.
How Long Do Local Authority Searches Take?
Most Local Authority Searches will take two to three weeks, however this can vary from a few days to several weeks, depending on the local council. In exceptional cases, if a local authority is suffering staff shortages, it it can take six to eight weeks.
An official search form will be sent to them council and although this is usually done electronically, not all councils have digitised their records, which can sometimes cause delays.
The best way to stay in the loop with your searches is to keep in regular contact with your conveyancer and query anything you are unsure about.
It is also worth noting that your solicitor may want to make further enquiries based on the results of the searches. Depending on the location of the property, your conveyancer may suggest additional searches, such as a mining search if you are buying a house in a current or former mining area.
Local Authority Search Costs
Costs associated with local authority searches can vary based on a number of factors. As councils set their own fees for both the LLC1 and the CON29 the searches could cost anywhere between £50 to £250, depending on the local authority.
Any additional searches that may be required will come at an extra cost and it is worth noting that the costs will be at the higher end of the spectrum in certain areas of London.
The price of the searches will usually be included in the overall breakdown of conveyancing costs from your solicitor. Conveyancers will usually offer a “search package” which includes all required searches, with prices ranging from £250 to £450 and can vary from location to location and the number of searches required.
What Searches Do Solicitors Do?
In addition to the Local Authority Search, there are a number of other reports that your conveyancing solicitor can request. A search package usually includes the local authority search, environmental search and drainage and water search.
Based on the information in the Local Authority Search, and the location in which are looking to buy, your solicitor may want to explore certain aspects of the property or the surrounding area further. Below is a list of the some of the searches available:
- Environmental Search - A search to determine risk of flooding and the proximity to any waste sites or potentially contaminated areas. This is included in the a search package.
- Drainage and Water Search - A search of the water authority’s records to check whether the property is connected to mains water supply and drainage. This is included in a search package.
- Coal Mining Search - Recommended in areas with a history of coal mining, these reports can provide information on past, present and future coal mining activities and can reveal any issues of ground stability, land contamination and any evidence of subsidence.
- Commons Registration Search - This can establish whether the land is registered as a common land in accordance with the Commons Registration act.
- Cheshire Brine Search - If the property is located in Cheshire, it may have been affected by Brine Mining.
- British Waterway Search (Rivers, Canals, Streams etc) - This shows if there is ownership and responsibility for a river bank, any fishing or mooring rights, drainage rights and licenses to extract water.
- Metalliferous Search - Suitable for properties in former metal mining areas, including the tin mining areas of Cornwall, Devon and some areas of Somerset, this search will determine the risk of land contamination, subsidence and any past metal mining activity in the area. This report typically covers alum, arsenic, barium, copper, gold, iron, manganese, ochre, silver, silver-lead, tin, tungsten, umber and zinc.
- Lead Mining Search - Lead Mining is concentrated in North Wales and the Derbyshire Peak District, so if you are looking to buy a property here, it is worth having a search done to see if past mining has taken place on the site.
- China Clay Search - For properties in Cornwall, Dorset and Devon, these areas may have been mined in the past and are therefore at risk of subsidence. Current Clay Mining is now restricted to the areas of Dartmoor and St Austell and buyers of properties in these areas are recommended to request this search.
- Limestone Search - Limestone Mining was common in the West Midlands up until the 1930s. There is still risk of subsidence and search is recommended.
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