Local authority searches are a key part of the house purchasing process. They provide you (the buyer) with crucial information about the property, information which may even make you reconsider buying it.
For example, you know the property has a loft conversion, that is why you want to buy it, but did the current owner obtain the relevant planning permission and building control regulations? If they didn't, it could cost you time and money to get the issue rectified.
And what about that pretty south facing garden with the big oak tree at the bottom. It blocks out a lot of sun and you are planning to cut it down when you move in. Well, you might not be able to 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.
These are important questions so making sure you get the right search is crucial.
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.
Who does the searches?
What is the difference between an official search and a personal or regulated search?
Official searches are carried out by us - the Local Land and Address Management Team As a team of three, we have worked at Hertsmere for a combined total of 53 years. We have won awards for customer service and been nominated for others. We also maintain, and have access to, a large amount of data relating to properties in our area. This enables us to provide reliable, accurate searches for both parts of the search - LLC1 and the CON29.
Personal searches are different. They are conducted by independent agents, or agencies, who are not associated with the council. The process for carrying out these searches is also different because agents do not have access to the same information, systems and resources as we do. Information for part one of the search - the LLC1 - is made available free of charge under EIR regulations (or the agents can pay a small fee to view a copy of the register online). However, it must be noted that we only have a duty to provide access to the information. Checking and verifying the information, which we offer as part of an official search, is not part of the service. The agent or agency would need to analyse the information themselves. This may include removing errors or finding missing information. Depending on what the client has asked for, they will then need to obtain information for part two of the search - the CON29 - by inspecting public registers, maps and index sheets and other sources. Once they have obtained this information, they will compile their own search often referred to as a regulated search.
Which search is best for me?
Choosing between an official search and personal is entirely up to you.
Official searches are carried out by the team whose job it is to maintain the Local Land Charges register. Who better to carry out your search than the people who put the information there in the first place, right? We are also local to the area so we know what to look out for, like where new housing developments are and what areas have TPOs. Our state of the art Local Land Charges system has also been expertly set up to connect directly to information held by other council departments such as Planning and Building Control, so we have access to all the necessary information to complete parts one and two of the search. We analyse the information pulled through from these departments and use our wealth of local knowledge and expertise to provide answers.
Some will argue that a personal search is the same as an official search because the information collated comes from the same data used by the council. And while it is true that anyone can carry out a personal search of the Land Charges Register for free, it should be noted that all we are doing is providing access to the information. We are not analysing or checking the information before giving it to the agent, which is what we do as part of the official search process. This is something you will want to consider when deciding which search to choose. The agent will still also need to obtain information for part two of the search - CON29 - from the public registers, maps and index sheets to complete what they call a regulated search.
Are personal searches quicker than official searches?
The simple answer is 'no'. It may have been true of the past, but it certainly is not true today. With new ways of working, and modern technology, local authorities are turning around searches quicker than ever, especially in Hertfordshire where turnaround times average between 1-7 working days.
Some agents may say that they can complete a personal, or regulated search, quicker than the local authority, but this is not strictly true. The Local Government Association expects local authorities to process personal searches in line with official searches. And whilst we adhere to this, when it comes to returning searches, we already have the information checked and ready to send back. Personal search agents will need to analyse the information we give them and check other public records before compiling their own search.
I need my search results quickly, what can I do?
We offer a free expedited service to paying customers of full official searches, so if you are under pressure to complete quickly, then we can help. This is a free service so there are restrictions. If you are a search provider and every search you submit is marked as urgent then we will limit the amount of urgent searches that we accept. Unfortunately this service is not available if you have requested a personal search or a view of the register. Please see our Personal Search page 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 one 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 you opt for a personal search, the process is less simple. We are not responsible for answering any queries which you, your solicitor, or agent may have regarding the personal search results, nor will we amend or correct the results.
If you have any questions about your search, please refer them to your solicitor, or the search company instructed to carry out the search, It is their responsibility to answer them. It is not uncommon for search companies to obtain the information from us, pass it back to the client and then ask them to raise any queries with us because we hold the data. Unfortunately this is not how the search process works. We will be happy to check and verify the results, but 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 the company's indemnity insurance cover before opting for one of these searches as any large errors like financial charges could affect your purchase.
It should also be noted that while the majority of mortgage lenders do accept this type of search, some don't, so ask your mortgage broker or solicitor to check first will not accept personal local authority searches.
I have been an agent for 15 years and have deal with a number of councils and their search departments.
I have also bought and sold a lot of property personally and have seen first-hand just how helpful your staff are.
Hertsmere Borough Council's search department is by far the easiest to deal with as they will always take the time to answer any specific requirements we have. Jade Reynolds in particular is a real star and without her, we would have lost countless sales in the past amounting to tens of thousands of pounds in fees.
First class service from a department that always seems to be busy!
Thank you and keep up the good work - Phil Merritt, Village Estates