What Are Local Authority Searches?James Trafford
Local authority searches constitute an important part of the conveyancing process and comprise an important part of buying your home. Information gathered from a Local Authority Search can potentially impact the sale of property by revealing, for example, any development plans in the pipeline, or perhaps current planning permission for a nearby property.
For wholly owned properties, you can set up alerts with the Land Registry for when local authority searches are conducted on your property in case fraud is being attempted, as recently highlighted in the national media.
What is covered by a Local Authority Search?
A local authority search comprises two parts: LLC1 and CON29.
LLC1 refers to the Local Land Charge Register search and covers all charges or restrictions with regard to land or property. Before the point of exchanging contracts, this information will allow you to know any important information that will affect the property.
- Whether the building is a listed building.
- Any planning agreements and conditional planning permissions that have been granted
- Whether the property is situated in a conservation area.
- Whether the property is in a tree preservation order area.
- Whether there are any financial charges registered against the property.
- Whether there is an improvement or renovation grant.
- If the property is situated in a smoke control zone.
LLC1 registrations set out are permanent and legally binding on any subsequent buyer of the property and land.
CON29 portion of the local authority search provides important information regarding:
- Any proposals for new roads, traffic, or rail projects nearby the property.
- The presence of planning decisions that may have an impact on the property and the surrounding area.
- Environmental information, like if the land is contaminated.
- If the property is located within a radon-gas affected area.
- Whether there is a compulsory purchase order that will affect the property.
- Any other areas of concern that are identified, such as the risk of subsidence and the proximity of energy utilities, will be added.
CON290 is an optional form that will cover information that is not covered in the CON29 form and that may also affect the property with changes planned. These searches include:
- Changes related to gas pipelines
- Any proposals for road changes issued by private entities
- Any completion notices
- Flood defences and common land enquiries.
Things not included in a standard local authority search
Information not provided by a standard search can be obtained with extra fees. Whether or not any extra searches are required is determined by your solicitor or mortgage lender, as required on an individual basis. Some lenders, however, will automatically require additional searches for extra security. These additional searches include the following:
- The CON290 optional form mentioned above.
- Environmental concerns to determine the risk of flooding. It also covers the issue of whether the property is located near any waste sites or other potential contaminants.
- Searches of the local water authority to ascertain if there are any public sewers close to the boundaries that might affect any future development.
- Whether the property is liable to contributions for the upkeep of the local church (Chancery Repair).
In addition to the above searches, there are further possible searches that cover other areas and are determined by the location of the property, as opposed to being required by the lender or solicitor. For example, buying a property located in a mining town will automatically trigger a requirement for a mining search.
- Mining searches
- Flood searches
- Energy infrastructure
Official vs personal searches
Local authority searches can come in the form of official or personal searches. With official searches, the completed forms are sent directly to the relevant local authority department and administered by the council employees from the Local Charge Register. Once completed, the form is then signed and forwarded on to your solicitor.
Personal local authority searches, on the other hand, are conducted by an external agency and are not affiliated with the council; they work independently from the same register. A benefit of this type of search is that it is typically cheaper and quicker to do compared to an official application process. Furthermore, personal searches are also covered by insurance policies to guarantee the accuracy of information. Despite these extra benefits, there’s still debate within the industry which is the best route to take.
Despite reticence by some solicitors within the industry to recommend a personal search, arguing that a local authority search performs better in terms of comprehensibility and with local authority compliance, many now advocate the usefulness of personal searches, arguing that the quality and accuracy have greatly improved over the years.
Deciding on which route to take, however, will likely be decided by your mortgage lender, who likely has a policy on what they prefer.
Cost of local authority searches
There are many factors that will determine the cost of a search. As a guide, you will typically find the cost will fall somewhere within these ranges:
Local authority searches are between £50 and £250 depending on the local authority and how they operate. There will be further fees for things like drainage reports of about £30 to £40, and about the same for environmental reports.
A personal search fee conducted by an external agency will be about £75 to £120 for a standard search with no extras.
It’s possible to save some money if you opt for a package deal that covers all the main categories for searching, and this will be about £200 to £260.