Conveyancing Searches: What You Need to Know

What are conveyancing searches?

Conveyancing searches – also known as property searches – are enquiries made about a property, the land it sits on and the surrounding areas.

They are usually carried out by a solicitor or conveyancer, who will contact third parties on your behalf to find out more about the place you’re thinking of buying.

Conveyancing searches are only compulsory if you’re buying with a mortgage. But even if you’re a cash buyer, certain searches will help you to avoid any nasty surprises later on. So they are still worth considering.

In this guide, we’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about conveyancing searches. These include:

Which conveyancing searches do I need?

There are certain types of searches that should be carried out for every type of property. These include:

  • Environmental

This type of search will uncover whether there are any environmental risks that could affect a property in the future. It will consider things like flooding, ground instability, as well as development constraints.

It will also let you know if the land a property sits on is contaminated in any way (from nearby landfill sites, for example). This is extremely important as local authorities will sometimes hold property owners responsible for the cost of cleaning up contaminated land.

  • Local authority

Local authority searches provide a wide range of information about a property and the area surrounding it. It will let you know about building and planning regulations, whether there are any planned roadworks nearby, if the property is in a conservation area, and more.

There is also the option to ask for additional searches (which may come at an extra cost) that consider boundaries with neighbouring properties, any ongoing disputes, or rights of way that cut through your land.

  • Title

This will confirm to the Land Registry that the person selling the property to you is the current legal owner. It will also reveal who previously owned the property, how much it was bought for and if there is any debt attached to the home.

  • Water and drainage

Your solicitor or conveyancer will contact your local water company to find out whether the house is connected to the water mains. They’ll also find out who owns and maintains the sewers, as well as where they are located.

These are the basic conveyancing searches that are carried out on most homes. But in some cases, further searches or checks could be required – such as:

  • British waterways searches

This type of search will usually need to be carried out if a property is close to a canal or river.

The search – also known as a Rivers Authority Search – will determine ownership and responsibility of the riverbank. It will also cover the rights to mooring and fishing, or whether you can extract water.

  • Chancel repair liability

As a result of a law dating back to the 4th century, you may be liable to pay for any repairs to your local church if you live within the parish. Your conveyancer or solicitor will check whether this applies to you or not.

  • Coal or brine mining searches

If the property you’re looking at is located in a mining area, there is a risk that the house could be built on unstable ground. This will apply whether the mines are still in operation or not.

Some mortgage providers will have this search as a compulsory requirement in coal mining areas. But your conveyancer or solicitor will be aware of this, and will let you know whether the search needs to be carried out.

  • Commons registration searches

This search will confirm whether the land you’re purchasing is registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965. If it is, you may have to pay to use it, and it could also be more difficult to apply for planning permission in the future.

You’ll usually only need to arrange a commons registration search if the property you’re buying is in a rural area, bordering onto open land.

  • Flood reports

If your environmental search flags up a flood risk, you may need to carry out an additional flood search. This will let you know whether the property has been flooded in the past 70 years, or whether there is a potential flood risk to the property in future.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

This will largely depend on the type of search.

When it comes to local authority searches, there can be a huge amount of variation in how long the process takes. Some councils can return search results in just 24 hours, while others can take more than 40 days.

Your local authority searches will only be valid for six months. So if your property purchase isn’t completed within this time, another search will need to be ordered.

Most other searches will take up to 10 days. But if your searches are taking longer than this, you should contact your solicitor or conveyancer to find out what’s causing the delay.

How much do conveyancing searches cost?

You’ll usually pay around £250-£350 for your conveyancing searches. But this figure could rise if you need to carry out more in-depth searches (to assess flooding risks, for example).

Environmental searches will typically cost around £50, but could go up to £180 if there is a lot of land to examine. Meanwhile, the cost of local authority searches varies from council to council, but they will usually set you back between £60 and £230. Water and drainage searches will typically cost up to £100.

Your conveyancer or solicitor will usually request payment for the searches before going ahead with the work. Unfortunately, this means that if the purchase falls through, you’ll likely lose all the money you’ve paid so far for the searches.

To give yourself the best chance of getting to completion, you’ll need the best conveyancing team behind you. Get in touch with us or start your enquiry online to find out how we could match you with an expert solicitor or conveyancer.

Note: First4Lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances.


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