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What Are Local Authority Searches? Everything You Need To Know

Written by, Marija Petkova

Updated September, 19, 2022

When purchasing or selling a property, one of the most important things you need to do is get a local authority search. 

This search will tell you everything you need to know about the area and land where the property you’re planning to buy resides.

But what are local authority searches, what’s included in them, how long do they take, and do you need one?

Let’s find out.

What Are Local Authority Searches?

Local authority searches are queries into the land and local area where the property you’re looking to buy is located. 

This search will give you information on planning permissions, building regulations, and who the current owner is, among other things.

Why Do People Need Local Authority Searches?

A local authority search is not only a good idea but a requirement (in most cases).

 A conveyancer or solicitor will likely request this after you have accepted an offer, especially if you’re buying a property with a mortgage. In this case, you’ll need to search to assure the lender that the property won’t depreciate, for example, if there is subsidence.

Even if you’re not required to perform one, it is not advisable to proceed without conveying a local authority search as it will tell you important information that you need to know about the property that might trigger a renegotiation of the deal or cause you to pull out of it entirely.

For example, if the property has planning restrictions, you won’t be able to convert it, and if it’s in any conservation areas, you might be prohibited from building it.

You may be interested in: What is a guide price on a property?

What’s Included In a Local Authority Search?

A local authority search is broken down into two parts – an LLC1 and a CON29 search.

The LLC1, or Local Land Charge Register search, is a search of the register that contains a record of all charges registered against a property, including:

  • Listed building status.
  • Tree preservation orders.
  • Smoke control areas.
  • Conditional planning permissions.
  • Financial charges registered against the property.
  • Planning Enforcement Notices.

All LLC1 plans, agreements, and permissions are legally binding on successive owners, meaning they will be held liable for the contract.

The CON29 search, on the other hand, looks at the area from a broader point of view. This includes:

  • Planning history.
  • Proposals for rail and road schemes in the vicinity of the property.
  • Building control regulations.
  • Environmental factors such as whether its property is local on contaminated land and what the levels of Radon gas are in the area.
  • Proposed tree preservation orders.
  • An asset of community value in the area.
  • Potential concerns such as the risk of subsidence and infrastructure and energy.

What Isn’t Included In a Local Authority Search?

There are some local authority search optional enquiries that aren’t part of the standard local authority search and cost extra.

They include:

  • The CON29 (O) form: To look at flood defences and land drainage consents, gas pipelines, roads proposed by private entities, as well as completion notices, land maintenance notices and environmental pollution notices.
  • Environmental searches: To help work out the risk of flooding, as well as how close any waste or contaminated sites are.
  • Water authority searches: To uncover any public sewers on the property that could affect future construction or development.
  • Chancel Repair reports: To check whether the property is liable for church repair contributions.

Conveyancing solicitors or mortgage lenders usually decide whether you need any extra searches on a case-by-case basis. 

Some additional searches can be mandatory due to the property’s location (and not just because the conveyancer or lender wants them done). For example, if a home is in a known mining area, then searching for possible mines would be necessary.

What’s The Difference Between Official Searches and Personal Searches?

There are two ways to get a local authority search done– ‘official’ and personal. 

For an official search, you send forms to the local authority, and the council staff conducts a search themselves. Once they’re done, a council officer stamps and signs the document and sends it to the conveyancer. 

A personal local authority search is conducted by an outside organization that works ‘independently’ from the council and the Register. 

Personal vs Official: Which One Is Better?

Personal local searches during house buying are often quicker and cheaper than formal ones. What’s more, they’re protected by specific information accuracy insurance plans and employer error liability. 

Although many conveyancers prefer personal over official local authority searches– mostly because speed is of the essence for all solicitors– others argue that an official search conducted by the local authority yields more comprehensive, reliable, and Search Code-compliant results.

That said, most veterans in the industry would agree that the quality and accuracy of personal search reports have increased over the years. Many search businesses that have been in the industry for quite some time provide a higher degree of control than council searches, and that’s on top of perks like speed and cost savings. 

In most cases, it’s the mortgage lender who decides whether an official or personal search is necessary. If so, the conveyancing solicitor will have to check the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ Handbook to see which searches are accepted by the specific lender.

Local Authority Search Cost

A local authority search can cost you anywhere between £50 and £250, depending on whether you opt for an official or personal search. 

Additional fees differ based on the search and local authority that performs it. For example, drainage reports usually range between £30 and £40 plus VAT on average, while environmental reports cost between £30 and £35 plus VAT.

The cost of a standard personal search is from £75 to £120.

If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, buying a fixed fee ‘bundle’ package from your conveyancing solicitor might be the best option. They usually cost £200-£260 and cover four main reports, including Local Authority, Drainage and Water, Environmental and Chancel reports.

The greatest advantage of the bundle is that your local authority costs will be covered even if the total amount owed exceeds what you’ve already paid. 

How Long Do Local Authority Searches Take?

The government typically aims to finish the search in up to 10 working days, but in reality, 

the local authority search timescale can vary significantly and take anywhere from two days to 10 weeks.

Factors that can influence how fast you’ll get the results from local searches when buying a house include the method used to send them (email, online, post), how busy the service is (seasonality), and staffing levels.

What’s more, your conveyancer or solicitor may wish to conduct further research based on the findings of the searches, which might extend the local authority searches time.

At What Stage Does Local Authority Take Place?

If you’re looking to speed up the process, you can start a local search when house-buying as soon as your offer is accepted on a property.

You can also order a search before making an offer, and there are sellers that ask for a local authority search themselves. This usually happens in areas where vendors are backlogged, and they expect to recover the cost of the search from a future buyer. 

Keep in mind that starting a search too soon might end up working against you since local authority searches are only valid for three months

Although you’re not required to do so, it’s always a good idea to double-check that all of your local authority lookups have been completed before the sale. If possible,  you should always check with your local authorities before the transaction becomes legally binding.

What is Local Authority Search Indemnity Insurance?

Local Authority Search Indemnity Insurance is a popular option among those whose searches are often subject to local authority search delays in 2022.

It protects you in case an order is served, and you have to sell the house for less than what you paid for it. This type of insurance is cheap, with premiums starting at £20, and the only downside is that your mortgage lender has to approve it.

Some of the most popular banks in the UK, such as Halifax, HSBC, and Bank of Ireland, are unlikely to accept search delay indemnity in place of comprehensive searches. 

What To Watch For When You Get a Local Search

Local searches are frequently limited to your home or street and may not include neighbouring developments (or even next door).

That’s why it’s important to double-check the area that your search covers or ask your local council for help. You can look up most planning applications by postcode on the local authority’s website for the region where you’re purchasing.

Also, keep in mind that any planning proposals submitted after your search will not be included.

Bottom Line

Local authority searches play a crucial role in the home-buying process. They give buyers all the information they need on whether they want to proceed with the purchase of the property and whether there’s space to renegotiate the deal.

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

What is included in local authority searches?

The search will unveil any planning permissions, building regulation approvals, and listed building consents that have been granted in the area. It will also identify any charges that have been registered against the property.

How long do local authority searches take?

A local authority search can take anywhere between two days and 10 weeks, depending on what’s included and who performs it. 

Do I have to have a local authority search?

A local authority search is not mandatory but may be required in certain circumstances to obtain specific permits or licenses. It’s best to speak with a legal professional in your area to determine whether or not you need a local authority search.

​​Do I need to search if I’m a cash buyer?

If you’re paying for the property in cash, you don’t need to get a search. However, it’s still a good idea to do your due diligence and research the property thoroughly before making an offer.

My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.