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Searches: what happens when results received?

Napthens - May 23rd 2018

When buying a property, various searches are obtained, especially when the buyer is purchasing with the assistance of mortgage finance. Searches usually include a Local Search, Water and Drainage Search, Environmental Search and Flood Search.

Turnaround time for obtaining searches can take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks - but when the searches are received it doesn’t mean the job is finished…

Reviewing the searches

  • Flood Search - usually one of the first results received. Of course, this will highlight whether the property is in an area at risk of flooding. A lawyer will always look for a “passed” certificate on this result.  If there is any significant risk of flooding highlighted then it is imperative that further enquiries are raised with the seller’s lawyer. Usual questions include whether the seller has been refused buildings insurance in the past, or if they have experienced any high premiums. It is important that a potential buyer can get the property insured at the point of exchange of contracts.
  • Environmental Search - likely to be received within a few days. A “passed” certificate is also desired for this result.  A key point to note is whether the property falls within an area with a contamination risk and whether any environmental constraints have been revealed. This search also confirms whether a Coal Mining Search is required (always desired within certain locations in the UK)
    Note:   A Flood and Environmental Search may also be combined into one search result.
  • Water and Drainage Search - can take around 1 or 2 weeks to be received. This search will ascertain whether the property is connected to mains drainage and water systems. Properties within new-build developments may not be connected and it may be that the developer has a written agreement in place with the water authority to connect properties to “the mains” when the whole estate is constructed. Again, the buyer’s lawyer must be provided with all of this information and/or agreements before progressing with the purchase.
  • Local Search - usually the last to be received. When obtaining a Local Search, the search provider will have made direct contact with the local council to obtain a vast amount of information:
    • The Local Search will reveal whether the road is adopted by the local authority and is maintained and repaired at local authority expense. The Local Search reveals any planning permissions/building regulations etc. and whether there are any financial charges attached to the property from the local authority (for example, if they have done any works or cleared infestations).  If there are financial charges, these belong to the property and not the individual and would therefore become the buyer’s responsibility.
    • A Local Search can also reveal whether the property is a listed building, will confirm whether  a tree preservation order is in existence and/or whether the property is within a conservation area.

So, what if issues are raised?

In the majority of cases no major concerns are highlighted within the search results. If issues are revealed then it is the responsibility of the lawyer to raise questions with the seller’s lawyer and in some matters, rectify the issues raised. Sometimes, all it takes is an email to the authority requesting an entry be removed from the search…sometimes, lengthy investigations have to be undertaken to ensure that the buyers and their mortgage lenders will be protected.

To help manage your client expectations, it should be made clear to the client that ordering and obtaining search results forms part of the early stages of the conveyancing process.  The results of the search will dictate how the buyer’s lawyer will proceed next.  Questions may be raised and information drawn to the buyer’s attention which may well impact on the time taken to proceed to completion.

If you have any questions on this issue please contact a member of the team.

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