As briefly covered in our conveyancing guide, a ‘Local Authority Search’ is an essential part of the home buying process and one that is considerably more complex than it may first seem.
To help you learn more about what’s included in a local authority search as well as their costs, and how long they take to complete, we have created the following comprehensive guide to get you informed on all things related to local authority searches.
What is a Local Authority Search?
A local authority search is a crucial property related search that is usually requested by mortgage lenders or conveyancing solicitors when buying a property.
Local authority searches are intended to protect homebuyers from potential issues that could affect the use of their property, as well as its current and future resale value.
As mortgage lenders will only lend to you if they feel that the property is worth the requested mortgage valuation, this search will help protect both yourself and your mortgage lender from purchasing a house for far more than it is worth.
Split into two parts; local authority searches will highlight a myriad of potential issues with the property and its land, as well as the surrounding area, enabling you to make a more informed offer.
A local authority search contains two documents, a Local Land Charge register search (LLC1) and a CON29 form, which itself comes in a ‘Required’ and ‘Optional’ variant.
Local Land Charge Register Search (LLC1)
The Local Land Charge register search or LLC1 is a detailed document that reveals a variety of information and potential restrictions relating to the property or the land that it resides on. The LLC1 will highlight a number of potential problems and details such as:
- Is the property a listed building?
- Is the home located within a conservation area?
- Are there any ‘tree protection orders’ in force?
- Does the property require an improvement or renovation grant?
- Is the property located in a ‘smoke control zone’?
- Are there any future developments planned to take place within the property’s land or the nearby area?
The second part of a local authority search is the CON29(R) form; this required document will supply crucial information about the property in relation to a variety of infrastructure developments in the area, as well as the existence of a compulsory purchase order.
The thorough CON29 (R) document will take an in-depth look at nearby roads and public footpath schemes that could affect your property in the future. This document is absolutely essential to ensuring your property is resaleable, and can protect you from being forced to sell your home to land or property developers or any other company in the future.
The CON29(O) form is an optional, extended questionnaire variation of the standard CON29(R) document that is required as part of a local authority search.
While the report is not included as part of a standard local search, it could be worthwhile to have your conveyancer also obtain this document.
The CON29 (O) covers a vast range of topics including, road proposals, and the creation of public paths, which could make the difference when deciding whether or not to continue with your property purchase.
Personal vs Official search
In addition to the two parts that form the local authority search, there are also two methods on how to conduct the search, – either ‘official’ or ‘personal’.
The ‘official’ method of a land search will require you to send your completed forms directly to the local council. As this method’s name suggests, upon receiving your documentation, the council will instruct an official to conduct the search on your behalf.
During the local authority’s search, the official will utilise data from their knowledge centre and the Local Land Charges Register. After the search is completed, it will then be signed and officially stamped by a council officer.
The other way of conducting a land search is referred to as the ‘personal’ method and is conducted by a third party agency working independently from the council.
Despite involving a third party, the personal method is usually cheaper and quicker than the official method and is also covered by regulated information accuracy insurance policies. As such, conveyancers often will instruct you to go with a personal search rather than an official one. However, it is important to verify with your mortgage lender regarding any rules they may have surrounding an official search vs a personal one.
How Much Does a Land Search Cost?
So, now that you’re familiar with the details of what a local authority search is, the difference between an official and personal search, as well as what is included in both the LLC1 and CON29 documents, it’s now time to learn about the costs.
Unfortunately, fees to conduct a local authority search vary greatly depending on the council, often meaning that you could be charged anywhere between £50 and £250.
Thankfully, the cost of other property-related searches you will need to conduct are cheaper; the essential environmental search can cost between £30 – £35, for example.
Another cost-effective measure is purchasing a fixed-fee package from your conveyancing solicitor; this will often cover the main property reports, including Water, Environmental, Chancel and Local Authority searches.
Typically a fixed-fee package will cost around the £200 mark but will cover all costs even if the additional searches carry the cost beyond this fee.
Do I need to Get a Land Search?
While there is no law that states you must conduct a local authority land search, it is usually a requirement of mortgage lenders as the reports can offer a guarantee that the property is worth the requested mortgage, allowing them to bear witness or object to any potential issues that could harm the value of the home.
In addition to protecting their investment, land searches offer security to the mortgage lender and reassurance that in the event of the property being repossessed, they would be able to receive the value owed to them from a future sale.
Do I still need a report as a Cash Buyer?
While cash buyers are not required to conduct searches, any reputable conveyancer would still strongly recommend that you do so, just to prevent yourself from being potentially disadvantaged in the future.
Ultimately as a cash buyer, the decision over whether to conduct a search is entirely up to you. However, a conveyancer may suggest that you consider taking out a No Search Indemnity Insurance policy as an alternative.
Also known as ‘Local Authority Search Indemnity Insurance’, the No Search Indemnity Insurance is a one-time payment that will last for the duration of your ownership of the property.
Typically, the policy is heavily used when buying an older property that lacks sufficient deed documentation.
Serving as a way to protect you in the event of you being forced to sell your property to make way for future development, the no search indemnity insurance policy cannot prevent a forced sale but will allow you to receive compensation for the sale.
While No Search Indemnity Insurance policy is not only limited to cash buyers it might not be sufficient security for a mortgage lender.
How Long Does a Land Search Take?
As with the majority of the house buying process, the time it takes for searches to be conducted can vary greatly due to a number of circumstances. Some of the most common reasons why searches can take close to 6-weeks to be completed can include; postal delays, seasonal demand, slow conveyancer/solicitor, and staffing shortages to name but a few.
How Can I Speed up the Land Authority Search Process?
One of the easiest ways to increase the speed of the land search process is to instruct your conveyancer or solicitor to begin conducting property searches as soon as your offer has been accepted. As the time a local authority takes to process your search is effectively out of both your control and the conveyancers, it’s a good idea to give the local authority a sufficient window in which to process your request.
In addition to allowing for more time, it might be worthwhile to consider a personal search instead of the official method.
As highlighted above, an official method is dependent on the responsiveness of the council/local authority, as such, they may not be privy to the time constraints of your move, which could result in a report arriving too late and the house purchase breaking down.
Another way of reducing the time taken for a property search is to use the aforementioned Local Authority Search Indemnity Insurance scheme. By taking out these insurance policies, you can protect yourself from a future order forcing you to sell the property at a reduced price.
However, please note that a Local Authority Search Indemnity Insurance scheme may not be possible if you have a mortgage lender as many will often demand that a search is carried out before they can lend you the requested funds.
What Other Searches Should I do?
In addition to the LLC1 and CON29(R) forms included as part of a standard local authority search, your mortgage lender or conveyancing solicitor may suggest that you also take the CON29(O) questionnaire.
The optional CON290 form will cover the existence of gas pipelines and a wide variety of other land maintenance and environmental concerns that could affect your property.
Besides the local authority searches, your mortgage lender will also require you to carry out a variety of other property searches before they are willing to give you a mortgage.
These searches include Land Registry Searches, Water Authority Searches, Chancel Repair Searches, Environmental Searches and occasionally, Location-Specific Searches.
For more information on these searches, please see our conveyancing guide.