All you need to know about conveyancing searches

What are conveyancing searches?

Conveyancing searches help to identify any risk that may affect the property, its value and your enjoyment of your home. 

Are conveyancing searches necessary when buying a house? 

CON29DW searches, environmental searches and Local Authority searches are usually required by your mortgage lender, and there are other additional searches that you may wish to consider for peace of mind - see below. 

How long do conveyancing searches take? 

The majority of conveyancing searches take between one and ten working days to complete with the exception of Local Authority searches, which can take up to several months depending on the individual authorities turnaround times.  

When are searches ordered? 

Firstly you need to instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf. It is their job to liaise with the seller’s solicitor and keep the transaction moving.

Your solicitor will order searches early in the legal process to give them time to investigate any queries that arise.

What searches do you need when buying a house?

To ensure you know as much about your new home as possible, it’s important that your solicitor orders key conveyancing searches, not just to satisfy your mortgage provider but also to ensure you are made aware of any possible risks. Your solicitor will advise you of which searches are relevant to your property depending on its location. For example, some parts of the UK are affected by risks such as subsidence from historic mining activity or have experienced damage from flooding. It’s important to be aware of these potential issues before committing to a purchase.

The categories below outline key searches which your solicitor may recommend for your transaction:

CON29DW Drainage and Water Enquiry

The CON29DW confirms that a specific property is connected for both water and sewerage services. If not, you need to know what the alternative arrangements are (for instance, a borehole or septic tank). It also identifies whether any water company assets are within the boundary or in the proximity of the property. If assets are present, this could limit any future development, such as an extension. 

What’s covered?

Water supply, foul and surface water drainage, water company assets, two maps, water quality and water pressure information, any history of internal sewer flooding, whether a buildover agreement exists, nearby sewerage works and pumping stations.

Local Authority Search

A Local Authority Search looks at all information held by the Local Authority about the property and any land. It has two essential aspects – the LLC1 and the CON29.

What’s covered? 

The Local Land Charge Register Search (LLC1) covers any charges or restrictions relating to the land or property – for example, whether the property is a listed building, in a conservation area, subject to a tree protection order or in need of an improvement grant. The CON29 supplies information relating to public highways, new road proposals, rail schemes and planning decisions.

Environmental Search

An Environmental Search provides details of how the land within the property boundary and the vicinity of the property has been used in the past. It highlights whether any of these uses are likely to have caused contamination of the land. Contaminated land is defined according to Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

What’s covered?

A professional opinion offering guidance on any environmental risk associated with the property, any likelihood of the property being defined as contaminated, details of past and present industrial land use, location of nearby waste management sites, and details of contents to discharge. Environmental searches can also include screening for other risks such as flood, ground stability, and energy and infrastructure.

Combined Risk Search

For total peace of mind you can opt for a Combined Risk Search. This type of search gives you the full picture on your intended property purchase. Combined risk searches cover contaminated land (as in an environmental search), plus a full assessment on the other main risks to a property.

What’s covered?
A professional opinion on ALL major risks to your property. This includes any likelihood of the property being defined as contaminated, all the details provided in an environmental search and full assessments on flood, ground stability, and energy and infrastructure risks. Depending on requirements, planning data may also be included (check with your conveyancer).

Planning Search
A Planning Search provides you with more detail on the surrounding area to your chosen property. Although a Planning Search is not usually required by your lender, the risk of new development affecting your property can be quite likely. For example, it could alter the view from your property or increase levels of noise or traffic. Recent Government reform to support home building has increased the likelihood of development.

What’s covered?

Planning applications within a defined radius of the property, local information such as crime rates, local schools and services, and details of the Local Authority planning policies for the area.

ChancelCheck Search 

Chancel repair liability goes back to the days when property owners may be liable to pay towards the repairs of a local church. The liability is attached the property rather than the individual, so it makes no difference whether you are a member of the church or not.

What’s covered?

A ChancelCheck search determines whether the property is in a parish with a medieval church and whether there is a potential liability on the property.

For more information on conveyancing searches and to download product information cards and sample searches, visit our Resources Centre.