Conveyancing — Buying and Selling Residential Property
It is very important that before a buyer commits to a binding contract to purchase a property, they find out as much information as possible about the property. A survey will tell the buyer about the condition of the property, but there is other essential information needed.
There are over 30 possible pre-exchange searches that can be carried out. There are a number of standard or usual searches which are undertaken on virtually all conveyancing transactions. These are the local authority, drainage and environmental searches. Local authority and drainage searches are mandatory if you are buying with the aid of a mortgage, because the mortgage company will require these to be carried out.
Local authority search
The local authority search is carried out at the local authority within which the property lays and which asks various important questions. These include whether the road in which the property lies is maintained by the local authority. If it is not, and is either a private road or an un-adopted highway, there is a chance that a buyer would be required to contribute towards maintenance or making it up to local authority standards in the future.
The local authority search also confirms whether the property is within a conservation area or is a listed building (which has consequences in respect of previous work carried out and any future work) and also checks the planning history of the property. Buying a property with a big extension or nice new loft room might seem like a good idea, but someone needs to check that all the relevant planning permissions were obtained – otherwise you might be required to pull it down and reinstate the property to its original configuration.
A drainage search is a search carried out at the local water authority. It will confirm whether the property drains into a public sewer, has mains water supply and whether it is billed on a metered or non-metered basis. It is an important search because recently the Water Companies have taken over all private drains which means that if you are going to build an extension in the future and it lies near a drain, you would need to contact the water company to obtain a Building Over Sewer Agreement. If you do not then if any work is required to that drain in the future the water company could come in, dig up your extension to repair the drain but there would be no obligation to repair the conservatory or replace the floor once the work is done.
An environmental search is not currently mandatory but is normally carried out. It will give general information about the property and any possible environmental issues (such as contaminated land or the existence of radon gas in the area).
This can include a flood risk search which is useful if the property is situated near a river or is low lying, to check insurability. Planning searches will give information about planning applications for nearby properties. A chancel repair liability search is carried out, because parish councils and medieval churches had until October 2013 to register potential chancel liability. If you live within a short distance of a medieval church there is always a possibility that you might be required to contribute towards maintenance of the chancel of that church. Another type of search involves a specific search to cover Fracking and other mining activities.
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