Therese Kingman of Slee Blackwell’s South Molton office takes a look at some of the searches solicitors carry out when buying property.

The most important search your solicitor will need to carry out is a local authority search, often referred to by lawyers as a ‘local search’. This is a search of the council’s records in connection with your property, such as the records of North Devon District Council. The search result will detail the house’s planning history by telling us what planning permissions have been granted and if any have been refused. It will not reveal any breaches of planning permission unless those breaches have come to the council’s knowledge and action has been taken. The local search should also reveal any recently granted building regulation approvals. If the council served a notice alleging a breach of building regulations this would show on the search but again no breaches would be revealed unless the breach had come to the council’s attention.

A local search should reveal any road proposals that the council is considering and any proposed new railway lines. It reveals the status of the roads leading to the property i.e. whether or not they have been adopted and are maintainable by the local authority. It should also reveal any public footpaths that might cross the property.

If the property is listed this would show up on a local search. The search would reveal details of the specific description of the property as contained in the listing. You can also find out whether a property is listed and obtain details of the listing by visiting the English Heritage website. In addition, the local search would reveal if the property is within a conservation area where planning permission is required for what otherwise might be normal permitted development.

Curiously, whilst a local search would reveal if there was a public footpath. However, it would not reveal right to roam information in relation to adjoining land. You can visit the Countryside Agency website to see what land is subject to the right to roam.

As a precaution solicitors often carry out a chancel check search. This will indicate whether the property is within a parish that might be entitled to levy a bill for chancel repairs. If it is, then a comparatively cheap insurance policy can be obtained for a single premium to cover the property against a possible claim by the Church of England for chancel repair.

Environmental searches reveal any recorded uses of the property that could have lead to contamination or any reported incidents of contamination. However, if anything is done illegally on a property it is unlikely that it will have been reported. Therefore it probably won’t show up on an environmental search.

Conveyancing solicitors can also carry out a plan search which would reveal any current planning permissions or pending applications in connection with land within 250 meters of your property.

If you have any queries about the issues raised please contact Terese Kingman at Slee Blackwell 2 Lime Court Pathfields Business Park South Molton on 01769 575982 or email at [email protected]

Searches in property transactions