It is almost universal (and therefore the test as to whether a conveyancing solicitor has been negligent) that conveyancers carry out a minimum of 4 searches on any house purchase, to protect both the buyer and also any mortgage lender who may be lending.
The minimum four searches are:
1. Local land charges and enquiries of the Local Authority
This search is confined to the property itself, and searches the Council records for anything adverse that might affect it, such as planning and building control consents (and breaches), road and rail schemes being proposed nearby, proposed compulsory purchase orders, repayable financial charges, road adoption and footpath proximity.
2. Environmental ‘data’ report
This will identify past and present industrial land use which may indicate the possibility of contamination, the responsibility for which can fall to the homeowner – if the person responsible for the contamination cannot be found. It also contains flood data.
3. Drainage & water
This will confirm if the property is connected to mains water and drainage and it will provide a plan showing the mains, and likely route of the private pipes. This is a very valuable search, as it can show if people have built structures above drains, which may need to be knocked down. A very poor substitute by some conveyancers is simply relying on a copy water bill.
4. Chancel repair
This search identifies the likelihood of the property’s liability to contribute to the repair of the chancel of a parish church. This mediaeval anomaly affects thousands of properties across England & Wales.
Then, depending on a property’s geographical location, additional searches may be additionally be required - coal/tin/brine/clay mining, planning, Highspeed 2 etc.
However, a nasty surprise might await you depending on who your conveyancer chooses to use to obtain your search results.
There are several practices:
1. Direct to the official bodies (e.g. in other words the 'horses mouth') at cost price.
2. Rather than sending multiple separate search requests off, there are some businesses who will simply take a plan and an address and send the searches off for the conveyancer. Some businesses charge a fee on top to do this, but many do not – and can secure their own discount with the official bodies to pay for this service.
3. There are some businesses who employ staff to visit the official bodies to interpret the official records and who then compile a non-official result for the conveyancer. Such businesses will undercut the official prices by quite a margin, but the results are not ‘official’ and this is not universally accepted by conveyancers.
It is advisable when seeking quotes for conveyancing to ask your conveyancing solicitor which is their practice. The Trethowans' Residential Property team will only obtain ‘official searches’.