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Conveyancing Searches Explained

Martha Lott
Written by Martha Lott
8th November 2018 (Last updated on Wednesday 5th December 2018)

Conveyancing searches are a vital part of the conveyancing process for buying a house. After your offer has been accepted, your conveyancer will organise three main searches, including local authority searches, environmental searches and drainage and water searches. You'll also have to carry out title searches to prove the seller is the legal owner of the house. 

If you’re buying a house with a mortgage, then conveyancing searches are a requirement to reassure your mortgage lender that the property they will be owning with you won’t lose value. These searches will also give you more information on the area and property, playing a decisive factor in whether you go ahead with the purchase.

A licensed conveyancer or a conveyancing solicitor will enquire with the necessary people on what searches to undergo. 

This article will cover the following points

What Are Conveyancing Searches? What Are Local Authority Searches? What Are Environmental Searches? What Are Drainage and Water Searches? What Are Title Searches? Less Common Conveyancing Searches How Long Do Conveyancing Searches Take? How Much Do Conveyancing Searches Cost? Do I Need Conveyancing Searches? Save on Conveyancing Costs

What Are Conveyancing Searches?

Conveyancing searches are enquiries carried out by your conveyancer or solicitor to find out crucial information on the local area and the property you are planning to buy. Property searches are typically made up of local authority searches, environmental searches and drainage and water searches.

These searches will highlight any issues to do with the local authority and area that could potentially cause disruption or damage to the property. The council might have planning permission to carry out building work or major schemes that could affect the property you plan to purchase.  

Conveyancing searches will be carried out at the beginning of the conveyancing process, before exchanging contracts as the searches will provide you with vital information on the property and local authority that could affect your decision to carry out the purchase. 

What Are Local Authority Searches?

Local authority searches are an essential part of the conveyancing process for buying a house. If you’re loaning money from a mortgage provider, then you will have to instruct your conveyancer to carry out local authority searches as a requirement.

Local authority searches are vital in finding out key pieces of information that will be decisive in whether you buy the property or not. The searches will highlight anything in the local area that will affect the property.

The local authority searches your conveyancer will carry out are made up of two parts:

Local Land Charges Register Search (LLC1) –

The first part of the local authority searches is the local land charges register search (LLC1). This will be able to tell you if:

  • The property is a listed building or not.
  • The property is located in a conservation or tree preservation area.
  • The property is in a smoke control area.
  • The property’s conditional planning permissions.

Enquiries of the Local Authority (CON29) -  

The other part of the local authority searches is the enquiries of the local authority (CON29). This will be able to inform you:

  • The property’s planning history.
  • If there are any proposed building plans that could affect the property.
  • If there are any road or traffic schemes planned near the property.
  • The area and property’s building regulations.

What Are Environmental Searches?

Environmental searches will provide details of the land within the property’s vicinity and find out if the property was built on contaminated land. It will also be able to highlight if you’re at risk of flooding.

These searches are essential when buying a house as you’re made aware of any problem areas at the beginning of the conveyancing process instead of a few years down the line, which could result in a nasty bill addressed to you.

Environmental searches will look at:

  • History of the uses of land in the vicinity of the property.
  • Ensuring there are no traces of toxic waste or radon gas nearby.
  • Identify if there’s a flood risk in the area.
  • Identify risk of subsidence.

What Are Drainage and Water Searches?

Drainage and water searches will be carried out by your conveyancer and will find out information from your local water company on the area’s sewage system and the property’s water supply. It’s essential that your conveyancer carries out a drainage and water search to highlight any major issues before you commit to purchasing the house.

It may not seem like an obvious search, but it will be a requirement from your mortgage lender so they're reassured the property is not at risk of public waterways or drains causing flooding.

Drainage and water searches will gather vital information on:

  • If the property is linked to the public sewage system.
  • If the property is linked to the public water supply.
  • How the property will be charged for its water supply.
  • If there is a risk of flooding due to proximity to public sewers.

What Are Title Searches?

Title searches will be an essential search carried out by the buyer's conveyancer. They will confirm with the Land Registry that the seller is the legal owner of the property that you are about to purchase and find out if they are legally allowed to sell the property to you. 

The title searches will provide information on:

  • Who currently owns the property.
  • Who previously owned the property.
  • How much the property was bought for.
  • If the property has any debt.
  • The location of the property.

Less Common Conveyancing Searches

Local authority, environmental and drainage and water searches are the most popular searches and usually can be purchased as a package from your conveyancer. However, depending on the area the property is in, your conveyancer may need to enquire about more searches.

Flood Search – A flood search will inform you if the property and area is at risk of flooding. It goes without saying this search is a vital one if the property is near water. 

Chancel Repair Search – If there is a church near your property, a chancel repair search will find out whether you are liable for the church’s repairs and maintenance or not.

Mining Search – A mining search will provide vital information on the history of mining near the property and if this affects the house. 

Bankruptcy Search - Your mortgage lender will require a bankruptcy search on the buyer to check they haven't been or will become bankrupt before they release the funds to you.

How Long Do Conveyancing Searches Take?

The turnaround for conveyancing search results can range anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on how fast your local authority will act. The time that conveyancing searches take will vary depending on a number of factors.

You might have a delay in receiving the results from the searches if your local council is yet to use an electronic system. This will slow the process down by a few weeks, although most local councils have or are in the process of using an online system with the rise of online conveyancing.  

Typically, local authority searches can take anywhere from 10 days to several months. Drainage and water, environmental, flood, mining, chancel repair and title searches will take between 1 and 10 days. 

How Much Do Conveyancing Searches Cost?

Conveyancers will usually offer a search package made up of the local authority searches, environmental searches and drainage and water searches. The price can range from £250 to £450 and will vary via location, conveyancer costs and the amount of searches you require.

Cost of Conveyancing Searches 

Local Authority Search - £60 - £230

Environmental Search - £25 - £60

Drainage and Water Search - £50 - £100

Title Searches - £3

Flood Search - £20 - £50

Chancel Repair Search - £20 - £90

Mining Search - £25 - £120 

Data from The Advisory

Do I Need Conveyancing Searches?

It’s not a necessary requirement for everyone to carry out conveyancing searches. If you instruct a conveyancer to carry out searches or not will depend on if you’re buying with a mortgage or with cash.

Buying a House with a Mortgage

If you’re buying a house with a mortgage, then your mortgage lender will require your conveyancer to carry out searches as they are joint owners of the property with you. They will need to know if there’s any issues with the property and the area before continuing.

Buying a House with Cash

If you’re purchasing the property with cash, then you can decide how many or how little conveyancing searches you have, although it is recommended to always have conveyancing searches carried out as they will highlight problem areas before you commit to purchasing the property.

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