You will find lots of answers to this question on the internet, but in short, If you are in the process of buying a house, you will need searches, also known as property searches.
There are three main types of search;
- Local Authority Searches, which we provide, highlighting planning, enforcement, financial issues - basically anything which will affect successive buyers.
- Environmental Searches which will highlight flooding issues, subsidence and contaminated land issues;
- Water and Drainage Searches which cover sewer and drainage issues.
Your solicitor may apply for further searches such as coal or chancel depending on the area.
Unfortunately we do provide all three searches. If a solicitor approaches us direct then we will only provide the Local Authority Search. However the other searches can be obtained via nationals hubs. NLIS is the only regulated search environment in the market and is the is the only hub in the market that connects electronically to every LA in England and Wales.
What is a Local Authority Search?
Local Authority Searches are a key part of the house purchasing process, they provide you (the buyer) with crucial information about the property... Let's take the loft conversion at a potential house for example; it will give the family the space you require, but did the current owner obtain the relevant planning consent and building control regulations before they converted it? If they didn't, it could cost you time and money to get the issues rectified.
And what about the garden, it is south facing but the big oak tree at the bottom blocks out a lot of the sun and you would want to take it down - easy, right? Not if it has a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) attached to it. It is a criminal offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree protected by a TPO, or to cause or permit such actions, without the authority’s permission.
This is the type of information revealed as part of a Local Authority Search. We have put some more in depth information below. We have also put the answers to some of our other most frequently asked questions.
What information does a Local Authority Search contain?
A standard search consists of two parts. A LLC1 (search of the Local Land Charges Register) and a CON29. Your solicitor may also wish to carry out additional questions on the CON29O depending on the specifics of your property.
LLC1 - these charges are legally binding on successive owners (if applicable to the property):
CON29 - The second part of the search is an enquiries form and will provide information relating to the following.
CON290 - These are optional and will be asked based on the locality of your property:
Your solicitor will be the best person to ask about these.
Where does the information in the Local Authority come from?
Local Authorities have a statutory responsibility to maintain what is known as the the 'Local Land Charges Register' and this holds what we refer to as 'Local Land Charges' - charges which are binding on successive owners. Some departments will approach us direct to add their charges while others come electronically.
Then there is the second part of the search - the CON29 - these are replies to enquires so aren't binding but they could still affect the purchase. Most of the information for these questions is held in electronic format from various departments; Planning,Housing,Enforcement and our system has a direct link to access that data, but some of it comes from external organisations like the County Council who we rely on for highway information.
Who will carry out my Local Authority Search?
That will depend on who your solicitor instructs to carry it out . Your solicitor may approach the council direct in which case one of our experienced Local Land Charges Officers will carry out what is known as an Official Local Authority search. This is where we provide the search using the vast amount of data that we hold and guarantee the accuracy of the results.
However your solicitor may also approach a private company to carry out searches on their behalf. These are known as personal searches. This is where we are asked to provide access to environmental information so that the requester can complete the information themselves. We do not guarantee the accuracy of these searches. The search provider will be responsible for answering any queries relating to the search they have carried out.
Official Search v Personal Search
If your solicitor approaches the council to carry out the search then it will be created using our high tech local land charges software. All searches are automatically collated and formatted streamlining the service thus producing faster turnaround times. But it is important to remember that while electronic searches are quicker, there can be error as we use geospatial data to pick up information, so we have processes in place to guarantee the accuracy of results before returning to the client.
Personal searches differ in that they are not carried out by a council official or created with our systems; all we have is a duty to provide access to information under EIR. The private organisation or individual would need to approach us in the first instance to get access to register information. They would then need to inspect other public registers and records to obtain the information needed for the CON29 before putting all the information together to create their own search.
Which search is quicker?
I cannot comment on turnaround times for private bodies, but as we already maintain the data used to create searches and have direct access to it, we have the ability to turn searches around the same day, if we need to.
I need my search results quickly, what can I do?
We are always happy to mark searches as priority for those using our official search service, so if you are under pressure to complete quickly, then please get in touch.
Unfortunately this service is not available for private searches. Please see Personal searches and EIR for turnaround times.
What if my search results are wrong?
If your official search results are incorrect, which is rare, but we are only human after all, then all you need to do is get in touch. We will take a look at the search and If there are any errors then we will issue a new search free of charge. If it's too late to amend the results then the council will be held accountable for any losses incurred by the search being completed incorrectly.
Should your solicitor opt for a personal search, the process is less simple; we are not responsible for answering any queries regarding the personal search results, nor will we amend or correct the results. These are private searches carried out by private companies. If you do have any queries these will need to be referred to the organisation or individual instructed to carry out the search. If we are asked to check or verify the results then our official search fees will apply.
The independent search company will be held liable if the search being completed is incorrect, not the council, so you may wish to check their indemnity insurance cover before hand as any large errors like financial charges could affect the purchase.