If you’re considering buying a house, you may be wondering what a local authority search is and what it entails.
Property searches are a vital element in purchasing a property, and local authority searches are essential.
The knowledge and information revealed in a local search could be useful if you wish to renegotiate the offer you’ve made on the house. It could even lead you to decide not to buy at all.
Most importantly, for many buyers, local authority searches are a requirement of all mortgage lenders.
Here, we take a closer look at what a local authority search entails, the length of time it takes to carry one out, and what kind of information it could reveal that could affect your purchase.
Read on to learn more about this kind of property search in our helpful guide.
In this article, you’ll find:
- What is a local authority search?
- How long do authority searches take?
- How much do local searches cost?
- What do local authority searches include?
- What doesn’t a local authority search include?
- What is a personal search?
What is a local authority search?
A local authority search provides a list of any problems that may have arisen concerning the property and land around it. You can have this done for you by an independent third party. They’ll look into things like planning conditions, conservation areas or listed building consents if there are any.
Things like planning conditions can affect your ability to convert the property and conservation areas could stop development altogether, so it pays to know about them beforehand – especially if you rent out the home or are considering selling in the future.
Read more: how long does it take to sell a house?
How long do authority searches take?
The government has set regulations targets for their return of 10 business days maximum. In truth, though, timescales vary significantly and often, information isn’t received for far longer, often several weeks. It may take as little as 48 hours to get the results back, but it may also take up to 10 weeks!
You can make sure your land registry and local searches are carried out as quickly as possible when instructing your conveyancer.
You can also protect yourself by taking out Indemnity Insurance. Indemnity insurance will give you some peace of mind should your purchase be impacted by delays.
You’re now armed with all the details you need about the local search process and the kind of information required by conveyancers and lenders before moving into your new house.
How much do local authority searches cost?
Local authority searches come in at around £50-£250. Any extra reports will add to the overall fee. Drainage reports, for example, are £30-£40 while environmental reports will be around £30-£35. A regulated personal local search will usually come to about £75-£120.
What’s included within a local authority search?
A local authority search has two components: the CON29 and the LLC1.
LLC1 Local Land Charges Register Search
The LLC1 is also known as a Local Land Charges Search. This local search covers any attendant restrictions or charges which relate to the property or land.
Local land charges searches check the local land charges register to reveal information about whether the home in question is:
- Located within a conservation area
- Subject to a tree preservation order
- A listed building
- Located in a smoke control zone
- Requiring an improvement or renovation grant
Official local land charges searches also cover conditional planning permissions and planning agreements.
Official LLC1 registrations in the council local land charges register are considered legally binding for successive owners of the property.
As well as local land charges searches, a council local authority search will also carry out further enquiries.
These include looking into public highways, statutory notices, building regulations, new road proposals, propositions for local rail schemes and information about other additional planning decisions that could impact the property and the surrounding area, and which may affect your decisions about buying the property.
This local authority search is known as the CON29 search.
Official CON29 council local authority searches also carry out enquiries into whether an outstanding compulsory purchase order has been made on the property as well as into environmental factors, including whether the property is located on contaminated land or in an area affected by Radon gas.
The search results and information presented in the reports produced after carrying out this local authority search can have a major impact on the value of the property as well as on a buyers decision whether or not to buy the property.
What isn’t included in a local authority search?
The two parts of the council local authority search produce fairly comprehensive information, giving details about a variety of elements including:
- Whether properties are in a conservation area.
- Whether there are any current planning proposals for road or rail schemes that would impact the home.
- Whether the properties are listed buildings, in a smoke control area, are affected by gas or tree preservation or protection orders.
- Whether an improvement grant would be necessary.
However, there are other optional additional reports which are recommended by solicitors and conveyancers but which aren’t required property searches. It’s important you prepare all of the right certificates before you sell your house to avoid delays.
The information obtained in these searches isn’t included when local authority searches are carried out.
Since these other options aren’t always required by a solicitor or mortgage lender before completion of the sale they aren’t covered by a regular local authority official search report. This means they cost extra fees.
If you need a specific extra search report, you will be informed by your mortgage lender or conveyancing solicitor.
The enquiries necessary will vary between different cases and this, in turn, will affect the cost of obtaining the necessary information.
These other conveyancing search options include:
- An optional CON29 (O) search form. This official search form is related to proposals for planning applications on roads by any private bodies along with pollution and environmental notices, land maintenance notices, and completion notices.
- Environmental conveyancing searches. These determine how much of a risk flooding is to the property.
- This is something that any conveyancer working on behalf of a purchaser who is buying close to a body of water or in an area or street known for drainage issues will certainly recommend due to the problems in obtaining insurance in such cases.
- This type of search also checks the proximity of potentially contaminated or waste sites.
- Water authority search form. This search carries out enquiries into the drainage and public sewers inside the property’s boundaries that may have an impact on future development or building.
- Chancel Repair reports. These are related to whether or not the property will be liable for the costs of financial contributions to church repairs.
- Common Land investigation. This checks whether the property is impacted by the Commons Registration Act of 1965 i.e. whether part of the property is regarded as common land and, therefore, denied vehicular access.
It’s important to be aware that these extra searches which are outside the local authorities scope, for example, investigations into floods, planning infrastructure and energy, and local mining searches will all be determined by the property’s locality.
Mining searches, for example, will only be required when the property is located within a former mining area. This is why a standard local authority search won’t cover this element.
A conveyancer will only suggest it if the home is in a part of England and Wales that is known for its local mining history.
A history of mining in the area around the property may lead to ongoing problems that could have a serious financial impact on the future value of the building, the costs of obtaining building insurance, and also the cost of the property’s upkeep.
It is, therefore, vital to act on the results of such reports.
What’s a personal search?
Local authorities in England and Wales offer two kinds of local council search – personal and official.
Official enquiries involve sending the forms directly to the local government offices where the staff carry out investigations before signing and stamping it and returning it to the conveyancer.
On the other hand, a personal search is carried out by regulated external agencies that have nothing to do with local authorities. This process is often cheaper and quicker than making an official application. They’re also covered by an insurance policy for information accuracy and employer error.
So, which kind is best? Both have their own value. Regulated personal searches have become more accurate in recent years, and regulated independent companies that follow the regulations offer greater control, flexibility and accountability than those performed by councils, not to mention benefits in terms of time and money-saving.
Usually, the loan provider will determine which kind of enquiries are required.