What is a Local Authority Search When Buying a House?
Once you have an agreement in principle from your mortgage lender and an offer accepted on a property, you’re ready to move on to the next stage of the homebuying process; instructing a solicitor to complete the relevant legal requirements. This includes organising all the necessary conveyancing searches:
Whilst other search reports may be recommended, depending on the location of the property (mining and flooding reports, for example), the mortgage application can’t be finalised until these four searches have been done and your lender is satisfied the property’s future value is not at risk.
What information is included within a local authority search?
The purpose of a local authority search is to provide any background information relating to the immediate surrounding area which could have an adverse impact upon the value of your property.
There’s two parts to a local authority search – LLC1 (official certificate of search form) and CON29 (enquiries of the local authority form). An LLC1 provides information on any entries in the local land charges register which could affect the property you’re buying, such as:
- Any tree preservation orders?
- Is the property located in a conservation area?
- Is it a listed building?
The CON29 provides information on aspects mainly relating to the environment and any transportation links, such as:
- Possible planning permissions and restrictions
- Any compulsory purchase orders pending?
- Responsibility for the maintenance of adjoining roads and footpaths
- Does the property stand on contaminated land?
The local authority search is, arguably, the most important of all the main conveyancing searches, in terms of how the results could impact upon the value of your property. If, for example, you were initially unaware the proposed HS2 rail link is due to run straight past your front garden – don’t worry; a local authority search will highlight this.
Types of local authority search
There’s two types of local authority search:
- Council (formerly known as official)
- Regulated (formerly known as personal)
As the name suggests, a council search is conducted by the local authority themselves, whereas a regulated search is carried out by experts representing private companies. Of the two, council searches can take longer and are generally more expensive. The cost is decided by each local authority and can range from £50-£250.
Regulated searches are normally quicker and cheaper overall, with costs typically ranging from £75-£150. The decision, however, as to which one your solicitor will use is determined by the lender. Historically, most large lenders preferred council searches as they were seen as more reliable and accurate.
This position has softened recently with more lenders accepting regulated searches as private companies are now more competent and include an indemnity insurance to cover any subsequent errors in the information provided.
How long does a local authority search take?
Of all the conveyancing searches your solicitor will undertake, the local authority search is the one that will usually take the longest. Whereas the other three mandatory searches normally take a matter of days, a local authority search can take weeks, possibly months to complete, depending on the local authority’s workload at any given time.
As soon as you have your offer accepted on a house, it’s important to ask your solicitor to start the search process as soon as they can so you can avoid any delays in completing your purchase.