One common misconception about residential purchases is that the obligation to disclose full information about the property lies with the seller. However this is not the case. It is the buyer’s obligation to undertake the appropriate searches into the property to ensure that they know what they are buying.
From a structural perspective, if having brought the property you discover that the walls were not correctly built or that there are problems with the foundations, any loss in the value of the property or reinstatement amounts cannot be reclaimed from the seller. To lawyers, this type of loss amounts to ‘pure economic loss’ which has been ruled as not reclaimable. If you are purchasing a property with the assistance of a mortgage, lenders will undertake structural searches on the property to ensure that their interest in the property is protected. For many this will be satisfactory, however should you wish to undertake further independent searches, local surveyors’ details can be found on the internet.
However the structural soundness of the property is not the only search that should be undertaken on a property. The most common searches undertaken are outlined below. The outcomes of these searches may go as far as changing your decision to purchase the property.
A chancel search looks at whether the property is in an area that is subject to old chancel laws. These allow the local church to reclaim amounts spent on the upkeep of the church from property owners in the local area. Although it is rare for the church to demand such sums, it is not unheard of. If you find that the property is within an area where this may happen, insurance can be taken out to cover this risk.
A drainage search may also be undertaken. This search uncovers whether the property is at risk from flooding and also considers drainage and sewer works around the area.
The environmental search considers the suitability of the ground and the local environment. This uncovers whether the land that the property is built on is at risk of contamination. It may be that the property has been built on land that was previously used for industry. This may potentially risk contamination of the land from released chemicals. Whether this is the position will be uncovered in this search.
A plan search provides information about the local area. This includes, as well as other information, distance from schools and crime rates. Although not essential to the conveyancing process, the information contained in this report should be of interest to any future resident.
Arguably the most important search is the local authority search. This search outlines the relationship between the property and the local authority. As well as outlining which local authority the property falls under, the search outlines the planning history of the property and applications for planning permission. It is important that the correct planning applications have been approved and your solicitor will make enquiries of the seller’s solicitor should anything be missing. It is important that you inform your solicitor if you believe any work has been done on the property so that they can check the appropriate authorisations have been achieved.
If you have any questions about conveyancing please contact our conveyancing partner Ruhel Alom on 020 7790 2000 or email him directly on email@example.com