Your guide to conveyancing searches

For most of us, buying a home is one of the largest investments we will make.

To protect your investment, Steve Taylor property expert with Malcolm C Foy & Co in Doncaster will carry out several conveyancing searches to ensure that your new home holds no nasty surprises in the future.

Land Registry searches

Almost 80 per cent of land in England and Wales is registered, which means a central register records the ownership title of the property. Your lawyer will obtain official copies of the register from the Land Registry which will confirm the seller’s ability to transfer ownership of the property to you. This will also show the boundaries of the property and any rights or restrictions affecting it.

Our experienced conveyancers will explain the significance of any register entries to you. For example, if the search reveals a covenant against alterations to the building it may appear to scupper your plans for an extension. However, those restrictions may no longer apply and even if they do, we may be able to negotiate a release, or arrange insurance cover to pay out in the event of prosecution for a breach of covenant.

Carefully checking the Land Registry’s record of the property’s extent against what is “on the ground” can avoid boundary issues catching you out later.

Local authority searches

A standard local authority search will reveal whether any legal restrictions or obligations affect the property. These include tree preservation orders, smoke control orders, as well as the property’s planning and building enforcement history. It will also reveal whether the property is in the vicinity of any planned major infrastructure projects such as HS2 and Cross rail. Whilst only properties within 200metres of such projects are considered to be directly affected, even properties further away may suffer from widespread disruption and see their value decline.

You should note that the Local Authority Search only reveals matters that affect the Property being searched against. It will not disclose matters that affect neighbouring properties.

Understanding the search results is as important as asking the right questions in the first place. For example, the search may reveal that the property is a listed building. Examining the listing report will reveal any potential implications. Similarly, an apparent breach of planning consent may not be an issue if the time limit for enforcement has passed, and we can show that the use or operation has become lawful.

Drainage and Water Enquiries

The replies to drainage and water enquiries show whether a Property is connected to the mains water supply and mains drainage. The replies may also show the location of public sewers within the boundary of a Property and other such matters that may restrict development.

Coal Mining Search

A Coal Mining Search provides details of past present and future coal mining activity at a Property. The search also indicates if there are mine shafts on the Property and whether any mining activities may cause subsidence.

Environmental Search

If a Local Authority determines that land is contaminated and the party who caused the contamination cannot be found the current owner or occupier of the land may be required to remedy the contamination. This can be an expensive process so it is important to assess the risk of land being contaminated before committing to buy a Property.

Specialist searches

Depending on the type of property you are buying and its location, more specialist searches may be required. Sometimes the issue may not be obvious for example the effects of historic clay or tin mining. In other cases, additional searches and enquiries can help to assess a known or suspected risk, such as flooding.


The seller does not have to tell you about any defects in the property, so it is wise to consider getting an independent survey. Remember, the purpose of a mortgage valuation is to protect the lender’s interest, not yours. We can advise you on the different types of survey, and which is best for you.

By involving our residential property team, we can identify problems we are aware of locally and raise queries with your surveyor.

Pre-completion searches

Just before completing the transaction, our team will check that the search results remain up to date. If you are taking out a mortgage, they must also carry out a bankruptcy search for your lender.

Reporting back

Keeping you informed is crucial, as is updating your lender and the seller’s advisors on progress. We know good communication can keep things on track, even when a search result throws up something unexpected.

If you would like advice on searches or are buying or selling a house, contact Steve Taylor conveyancing solicitor in our residential property team.

Steve Taylor -

Malcolm C Foy & Co

51 Hallgate, Doncaster, DN1 3PB – 01302 340005

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. 17.02.15