Property searches - What are they and why do I need them?

Posted 19 October 2017 by Helen Christie

What is a property search and do you need one? Our guide has all the information you need about property searches

What are property searches and why do I need one?

When you are buying a property, you want to be as informed as possible. Whether a house or a flat, you will need to have property searches. While there are some things you can ask the seller, the seller won’t always know everything about the area, or their information may not be accurate. These searches are designed to flag up any information about the property that may not be obvious, and that you may not have been aware of.

Types of property searches

There are different types property searches that will normally be carried out on your behalf:

  • Local authority search – Information from the local council, for example if the property is affected by a planning enforcement notice. A local search is for the property being searched only – it won’t include information about nearby properties. The local authority search is made up of two documents, the LLC1 form – a certificate of search form, and the CON29 document, which is enquiries about the property.
  • Drainage and water search – This search will find out if the property has mains water and drainage, as well as information about the position of the pipes. It will also provide details about how the property is billed for the water supply and waste disposal.
  • Environmental search – This will determine if the property is affected by contamination which could result in costly removal
  • Land registry search – Make sure the seller still owns the property
  • Flood risk report – If the property is at risk from flooding
  • Planning search – Find out if there are any plans in place, maybe the neighbours have planning permission for a big extension or there is an application in place for a new supermarket
  • Mining searches – This survey would only be needed if the property is in an area with coal deposits

Are property searches compulsory?

If you do not need a mortgage, for example if you are a cash buyer, then you could request that your solicitor does not carry out any searches, though this is obviously a risk as a property search could reveal things that may affect your property. If you do need a mortgage, your lender will usually insist on a property search.

Who carries out the property search, and can I do it myself?

Usually your solicitor, or conveyancing solicitor will carry out the searches on your behalf. A search will typically take around two to three weeks, depending on what searches need to be undertaken. You can do it yourself, but be aware that if you miss something you are liable for it, whereas if there is a mistake on the solicitor’s part then they will have indemnity insurance against errors, and if you are needed a mortgage then the lender may insist on professional property searches being carried out.

How long do conveyancing searches take?

Searches usually take around two to three weeks, but they can be quicker, but could go on for much longer, depending on the local authority and what questions arise. Solicitors probably won’t be able to give you a definitive timeframe when you instruct them. Find out more about how long conveyancing takes.

Are property searches VAT applicable?

As of 4 July 2016, the CON29 form, which is part of the local authority search has VAT added to it. The LLC1 document, the other part of the land authority search has remained non-vatable.

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