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Conveyance Searches when Buying a Property

By: Liz Lennox - Updated: 18 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Mortgage Conveyancer Indemnity Insurance

Unless you happen to be in the enviable position of being able to buy without a mortgage then you are going to need searches. Of course, it is always advisable to have them done anyway but if you don't need a mortgage then the choice falls down to you. Okay, so what are they and what do they mean?

Local Authority Search

This is the one search that is essentially non-negotiable, even if you are buying without a MORTGAGE it is highly recommended. The result will tell you, among other things, if the local authority is planning to do any road expansion works that could affect the property or if the neighbour has permission for a two-storey extension that will plunge your garden into shadow! The benefits cannot be stressed too much but it is only valid for the property you are buying, not the whole area and it can't tell the future so if any changes are made to any of the local registers after the search is issued then you don't have the right to complain.

Drainage Search

In most, but not all, cases it is a very good idea to apply to the local water company for confirmation that the sewers, drains and pipes are maintained by them. The alternative could be that you are required to pay for it and that could be a very large bill that you could well do without!

Environmental Search

All Local Authorities are obliged to identify any area of land that may be seriously contaminated. All of these areas are registered and any works required to rectify it are the responsibility of the land owner. If the site has not previously been identified and you buy a house there then it will be you that may have to foot the bill. This search will give you some information about the previous land use so you can decide if there is a risk. It will also tell you if the house is in an area affected by flooding, landslip or subsidence.

Mining Searches

This is totally dependent on the area you are buying in. If the area has a previous or current mining history then the search must be carried out for the benefit of your mortgage lender. There are various different mining searches and your conveyancer will be able to tell you which you need, if any.


This is an addition to the Local Authority Search and provides more detailed information regarding the current and prior planning history of the property. It also goes beyond the scope of the Local Authority Search by covering the surrounding area and land use policies. It will also provide with detailed information about local amenities and crime - in short it is a really useful search and one that my clients invariably found helpful!

Chancel Check/Chancel Repair Search

This is a relatively new thing and has been increasingly controversial. Basically the Church of England is trying to enforce an ancient right to demand money from landowners as contributions towards the repair of its parish churches. This is irrespective of your beliefs.

As the saying goes: you can 't swing a cat in England without hitting a church, there is a strong chance that the property you buy may well have this liability attached to it. A simple chancel check or chancel search (slightly more expensive) will give you the information you need and enable you to decide whether to take out indemnity insurance.

All I have told you about here are the basic searches, there are others that are slightly more obscure but it is highly unlikely that you will need them. If your conveyancer tells you something else is needed: make them tell you why - they need to be able to justify why they are spending even more of your money.

What if Something Comes Up on One of the Searches?

It would have to be something pretty drastic for an adverse entry to crash a property sale, something along the lines of a COMPULSORY PURCHASE ORDER. Most things that can crop can be sorted out prior to completion or, at worst, indemnity insurance can be obtained. The thing you need to be aware of is that, although you may be willing to accept the search result, your mortgage lender may not. In all things they have final say over whether the transaction will go through. It's not fair but it's part of buying a house.

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