What is a Local Authority Search?
A Local Authority Search is a check of the local area and the land around a property that you want to buy. It’s designed to identify whether there are any potential problems that could affect your use or enjoyment of your property or put its value at risk.
This could include whether your home is at risk of subsistence or on contaminated land as well as other factors that could affect your buying decision such as footpaths, highways, planning and building regulations.
If you’re buying a house with a mortgage, your mortgage lender will require you to carry out this check. You can also ask for a local authority search if you’re buying a home with cash to help protect your investment.
In this article, we’ll explain exactly what you need to know about local authority searches including why they’re important, what they include, how much they cost and how long you can expect to wait.
Why do you need a local authority search?
The Local Authority Search helps to protect you from any nasty surprises that could affect your enjoyment of your home or its value. It is usually requested by the conveyancer or solicitor after your offer has been accepted.
Your mortgage lender will ask you to carry out a local authority search once your offer has been accepted so that they know that the property is unlikely to decrease in value.
The results of this search may cause you to renegotiate the price or even pull out of the purchase altogether if any problems are found.
What’s included in a Local Authority Search?
Although we refer to the Local Authority Search as one thing, there are actually two parts involved: the Local Land Charge Register Search (LLC1) and Extras/Optional Questions (CON29).
Local Land Charge Register Search (LLC1)
This covers any charges or restrictions relating to the land or property. It will check:
- Any planning agreements or conditional planning agreements
- If the building has listed status
- If the property is situated in a tree preservation order area
- Any required improvements
- If the property is located in a preservation area
- If the property is located in a smoke-free zone
- If there are any financial charges registered against the property
Extra/ Optional Questions (CON29)
This part of the local authority search provides information regarding roads, railways or other planning permissions plus whether there are any environmental factors that could influence the value of the property. It will check:
- Levels of Radon gas
- If the property is on contaminated land
- Any risk of subsidence
- Any potential energy or infrastructure problems
- Proposals for new roads, motorways or rail schemes close to the property
- Other related planning decisions that could affect the property and surrounding area
What ISN’T included in a Local Authority Search?
While the Local Authority Search is generally comprehensive, there are certain other searches that aren’t included.
Whether you need these will be decided by your conveyancing solicitor or mortgage lender, depending on the property, local area or lender requirements. They are also subject to additional fees unless requested as part of a search package.
- CON29(0): This provides more information regarding any future changes planned for the roads that may affect the property. It includes completion notices, environmental and pollution notices and land maintenance notices.
- Environmental searches: This can help identify any risk of floods, the proximity of waste sites or potentially contaminated sites nearby.
- Water authority searches: This will show whether there are any public sewers on your property that could impact future building or development projects.
- Chancel Repair reports: This identifies whether your property is liable for church repair contributions.
How much does a Local Authority Search cost?
The cost of a Local Authority search is usually between £50 and £250, depending on the local authority, whether you are requesting an official or private search and which searches are required.
Visit the Bath and North Somerset council website to find up-to-date figures for the Bath, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire and Somerset areas.
If you’re looking to keep costs to a minimum but your mortgage provider requires several searches, you can also ask for a fixed fee package from your conveyancing solicitor. This includes the four main reports required: the Local Authority Search, Drainage and Water Search, Environmental Search and Chancel Reports.
How long do local authority searches take?
The UK government target for returning Local Authority Searches is ten working days. However, the average time is usually two to six weeks, again depending on your local authority.
We are lucky here in Bath, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire and Somerset as usually it takes between three working days to a week for the relevant searches to be completed.
If you’d like to speed up the process, we advise you to instruct your conveyancing solicitor to start the searches as soon as your offer on a property has been accepted.
What’s the difference between official and personal local authority searches?
There are two types of local authority searches: “official” and “personal”.
- An official search is one where you apply directly to the local authority and their staff conduct the research from the Local Land Charges Register. They sign and stamp the search then return it to your conveyancer.
- A personal local authority search is carried out by an external agency who are working independently from the local council. Often quicker and cheaper than an official application and are covered by information accuracy insurance policies and employee error liability.
Many conveyancers recommend personal searches because they are covered by the insurance policies mentioned above. Others believe that an official local authority search is more comprehensive and benefits from local authority liability regulations and search code compliance.
If you choose a personal search, we recommend that you consult with your conveyancing solicitor to find a reputable company
Can I do my own local authority search?
Yes, you can carry out your own local authority search. However, we don’t recommend this unless you understand the legal jargon and paperwork. Otherwise you could miss a potential problem that could negatively impact your investment.
Do I need Local Authority Search Indemnity Insurance?
Indemnity Insurance is a protective insurance that protects you in case a compulsory purchase order is served that forces you to sell your home for less than you paid if a delay happens and you don’t get the search results on time.
This is subject to your mortgage lender’s approval and should be discussed with them before you take out a policy.
A Local Authority Search will help you check whether there are any problems in the area surrounding your property so you can protect your investment, renegotiate the price if necessary and enjoy your new home.
Looking for more advice on your next house move?
We can help. Contact our friendly team today to find out how.