Do I need a Local Authority Search?
Almost all transactions involving the transfer of ownership of dwellings, commercial properties, or unoccupied land, will require a Local Authority Search to be conducted as part of the conveyancing process. Whatever the transaction, a Local Authority Search is a vital link in the conveyancing process and can reveal information which will guide your decision on whether to make an offer or not, whether to re-negotiate the deal or whether to pull out altogether. As such, it is vitally important that you ensure that you get the best possible product available.
What is a Local Authority Search?
There are a large number of companies which offer a Local Authority Search service, as well as your own District or Borough Council. These are known collectively as personal search companies (PSCs) and they produce, not surprisingly, personal searches (see below). However, all Local Authority Search products have one thing in common - they must obtain their information from the local authoritative source (your local council).
A search is comprised of up to four parts. A minimum requirement is the form LLC1, which will provide a list of all of the relevant entries in the Local Land Charges Register, and the Con29. This will provide information on, amongst other things, details on planning applications relevant to the property (whether granted or refused), building control history, any enforcement action, restrictions on permitted development, nearby road schemes, contaminated land and radon gas; in all a total of 13 subject areas. These two elements together are often referred to as a 'basic' or 'standard' search.
You can also ask additional optional questions relating to public rights of way, areas of outstanding natural beauty, pipeline, pollution notices, or town and village greens. These questions (18 in all) are contained on the Con29 Optional form, usually referred to as the Con29O.
Further to these questions, you can also ask anything which you think may be useful to know about, such as whether there are any planning permissions on adjacent land. These questions, in common with the optional enquiries mentioned above, will be at additional cost.
The Different Types of Search.
There are two different types of product available to you:
- The official Local Authority Search, or
- The personal search.
The official search is conducted by trained and dedicated staff employed by your local council in their Local Land Charges unit. This, usually small, team are responsible for maintaining the Local Land Charges Register and conducting property searches, as required. As part of this process, they will ensure that the information revealed in your search report is relevant and accurate. The vast majority of local authorities now complete this process within just a few days.
What's included in an official search?
- general or specific financial charges, which show money owed to the council for works to a property or where planning permission has been granted for a development
- conditional planning permissions granted on a property since 1 August 1977
- conservation areas, which are areas where development may be restricted in order to preserve the appearance of the area
- Tree preservation orders, where works to trees may be restricted
- buildings listed as being of special historical or architectural interest.
CON29 O - Optional additional questions
- road proposals by private bodies
- completion notices
- parks and countryside
- houses in multiple occupation
- noise abatement
- urban development areas
- enterprise zones, local development orders and BIDs
- inner urban improvement areas
- simplified planning zones
- land maintenance notices
- mineral consultation and safeguarding areas
- hazardous substance consents
- environmental and pollution notices
- food safety notices
- hedgerow notices
- flood defence and land drainage consents
- common land and town or village greens
There are many advantages to using the official search product, not least of which is that, should you have any follow-up enquiries, you can go straight to the authoritative source for clarification. The official search will bear the logo of the council which provides it and the search certificate will be signed by an officer of the council. Only Local Authorities are permitted to produce and sign a Certificate of Search. In the (thankfully very rare) event that you should experience any problems resulting from errors or omissions in your report, all Local Authorities carry full indemnity insurance, which is open-ended.
A personal search may be conducted by anyone but in practice these are usually conducted by private companies on behalf of their clients. A personal search allows for the inspection of the Local Land Charges Register, at the council offices. All other publicly available registers may also be inspected but they may not all be located in the same place; other information may need to be obtained from the council website or by reference to committee minutes. Some of the information required to complete a search may be available on payment of an additional fee.