You will find lots of answers to this question on the internet, but to break it down, 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, the local authority, provide. These highlight issues such planning permission, enforcement case, outstanding financial charges, highway information. More comprehensive information can be found below.
  • Environmental searches highlight flooding issues, subsidence and contaminated land issues. these can be obtained from an Environmental Agency (not to be confused with the Environment Agency), and;
  • Water and drainage searches cover sewer and drainage issues. These will need to be obtained directly from the company ie Thames Water.

 

Your solicitor may apply for further searches such as coal or chancel depending on the area.

The local authority, in this case Hertsmere, are only responsible for providing the local authority search. If you have any questions about environmental or water and drainage searches, please speak with your solicitor.

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 need to grow, 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 large and 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. You can find more comprensive information below along with answers to some other frequently asked questions.

What do local authority searches include?

A standard local authority search consists of two parts. An 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 search come from?

The majority of information comes from the local authority who have a statutory responsibility to maintain a Local Land Charges Register. There are some questions on the CON29 which require input from external organisations such as Hertfordshire Country Council but we arrangements in place for them to provide us with information.

Anyone wishing to to carry out a private search also know as a personal search will need to make an application to us to view the Local Land Charges Register (which is free under EIR). For CON29 information they will be required to inspect other public registers and records if they want to obtain the information for free, if not then they can also apply to us for an official search.

Who provides local authority searches?

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 their own private search. 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 state of the art local land charges software which is fully integrated automatically collating and formatting searches electronically using the vast amount of information we hold in our back office systems.

Personal searches differ in that they are not carried out by a council official or created with using our systems. As far as personal searches are concerned we only have a duty to provide access to information. 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.

How long do searches take?

We 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.

Can you speed up local authority searches?

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  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.