Your Guide to Searches

There are various searches that may be deemed necessary to ensure the property you are buying will not present you with any unexpected issues, cause problems with obtaining a mortgage or insuring the property, or selling it on in the future.

With DC Law working for you, you can enjoy total peace of mind that the relevant searches will be obtained, and that anything that needs to be followed up or investigated further will be. Once the searches are returned, you will receive a report from your conveyancer. If there is anything that concerns them, they will discuss it with you and provide you with the advice you need to make decisions on how to proceed.

You will be kept fully informed of the searches we deem necessary, and the costs involved.

Local Authority

Your local authority will provide answers to questions about planning, roads, enforcement notices, drainage and lots more. Each local authority has its own fee for answering the basic search. Sometimes we will need to ask extra questions, for example if there’s a public footpath crossing adjoining property, in which case we will let you know and advise you about any additional charges the local authority will make to answer the extra questions.

Environmental search

An environmental search provides additional information regarding the property up to an area of 500 metres around it. The search reveals any registered landfill sites, water features, waste disposal treatment or disposal sites, industrial process or discharge of radioactive substance sites. The search also indicates whether the property is within 500 metres of a flood plain, within an area of natural subsidence or coal mining, or within an area where Radon Protection Measures are required.

It is only a compulsory search when you are purchasing with a mortgage, but it is a search we recommend is undertaken in all circumstances, or that we obtain insurance for you against contaminated land.

Water drainage enquiries

This search is compulsory if you are using a mortgage to purchase a property, although we do highly recommend it in any circumstances. It comprises a set of questions submitted to the local Water Authority and will confirm whether it has responsibility for the sewers and the route of the drains leading to the property.

Chancel Repair Liability and Chancel Repair Searches

This search confirms whether the property may be affected by a potential Chancel Repair obligation to the local parish church. Such obligations stem from mediaeval times where land previously owned by the church to fund the local rector had been sold and the new owner took on the repairing obligation attached to that land. Basically, any property located within the boundaries of a parish where such liability exists could be caught. The penalty involves having to pay for the upkeep of the Chancel of the local mediaeval parish church.

TThere was a famous case in 2003 (Aston Cantlow v Wallbank) where the church sought payment from the owners of the rectorial land, part of a property called Glebe Farm, to repair the chancel of the local mediaeval church. The owners of the rectorial land (known as lay rectors) refused to pay and what was originally a £6,000 bill increased to £96,000 as the structure slowly disintegrated. The church won, leaving the Wallbanks with an estimated bill of £500,000.

On 13 October 2013, the law changed and the right to demand repair costs is now only enforceable against a landowner if that land has been protected by registration of a notice against the registered title. Whilst it was expected that buyers would not be subject to chancel repair liability from 13 October onwards if the land they were purchasing had not been protected by registration, in reality the system does not appear to be working as expected, and the potential for liability does not appear to have changed.

So it would seem that a search would still be necessary. However, as it will not show for certain whether the property is caught or not, we recommend taking out a specially designed indemnity insurance policy instead. The insurance costs the same as the search and provides you with the peace of mind you need, whatever the circumstances.

Land Registry search

This search is carried out at the Land Registry and confirms that no registrations against the title have taken place since the date of the seller's copy of their title. The search also ‘locks’ the title so that no entries can be registered for 30 days which gives us time to register the change in ownership and will prevent any further registrations.

Bankruptcy search

When you are buying a property with a mortgage we have to do a search, on the lender’s behalf, against you. This search confirms whether there are bankruptcy proceedings against you. If anything is revealed then we must advise your lender so it is important that you let them know of any County Court Judgements or financial arrangements that affect you.

Plan search

This is usually an optional search but it will provide additional information to that provided by the local authority search. This is because it covers the land surrounding the property rather than just the property itself.

A plan search will provide information about any planning applications and decisions within the vicinity of the property that you are intending to purchase. However, the search will only detail applications and decisions registered up to the date of the search.

Neither DC Law nor our search providers can accept any responsibility for any adverse planning applications or planning decisions after the date upon which the search was conducted. You should also note that the information provided by the search results can also be obtained by you directly from the local authority.

Flood search

TAgain this is usually an optional search. It is designed to reveal any potential flood risk pertaining to the property that you are intending to purchase.

The results are usually available three working days following instruction. We would recommend this search to anyone buying property, as the arrangement between the government and the insurers whereby all properties in England and Wales can obtain flood insurance came to an end in 2013 and there is no guarantee that flood risk properties will be insurable on the open market form that time.

HS2 search

If the property you are purchasing is within a local authority affected by the proposed High Speed Rail 2 link then we must undertake a search. The search indicates how close the property may be to the proposed route and the potential impact on it. If the proposed railway line is within a certain number of kilometres of the property you are buying, then we will forward a copy of the search to your lender to ensure that their valuation is unaffected. Dependant on location other searches may be required such as coal, tin and mining.