By Juliet Phillips-James, Director, Gomer Williams (as featured in the Llanelli Star)
Q: I am in the process of buying a house in Llanelli and my solicitor has requested money for searches. My mortgage lender has already carried out a survey on the property. My funds are tight and I would rather not incur additional cost. What are the searches for and do I have to have them?
A: Due to the fact you are having a mortgage, the lender will insist searches are carried out as you are effectively using their money to purchase the property. Even if you were not having a mortgage it would be advisable to have searches done to avoid future problems during ownership and when you come to sell the property on.
The normal set of searches that are usually carried out are a local authority search, a coal authority search, a water authority search, an environmental search and a chancel repair liability search. There may be other searches your solicitor thinks are necessary. The local authority search will contain a standard set of questions, and your solicitor can opt for additional queries if they think this is necessary. The type of issues that this search is concerned with is planning permissions and whether roads accessing your property are yours and other neighbouring properties' responsibility to repair or the local authority's.
The water authority search reveals whether the property is connected to the mains water and drainage system. This will show whether you or they are responsible for repairs. It will also show whether any public mains or drainage system runs through the property, which could cause problems if you wanted to do other building works or extend the property. The coal authority search checks records to see if the property is likely to be affected by ground movement due to past and present coal workings in the area. It also flags up whether future reserves of coal could at some point be worked.
The environmental search will check data for potential sources of environmental risks such as contamination and flooding.
The chancel repair liability search will check to see whether you could be responsible to contribute to the cost of repairs of the local parish church. If it indicates that it is, whilst the church may not enforce this liability it is normally wise to put an insurance policy in place (a one off premium is payable) to cover the cost of potential future repairs. Your solicitor will look at what searches are needed and discuss the results of these with you flagging up any relevant issues.