A local authority search has long been a key search when buying property in the UK and this July the format has been updated for the first time since 2007, with notable additions. New questions are asked in several different areas to provide a more comprehensive list of information.
Prices could well change as local authorities may use this as an opportunity to review their fees.
But first to dispel a myth: in spite of its name, it is not a search of the local area – the search is intended to give targeted information about the property specified. So, for instance, it will not tell you about planning applications in the local area.
Changes have been made to both the standard form (CON29) and the optional form (CON29O). Here’s a brief summary:
The revised CON29 form has new questions on:
- listed buildings – there are additional questions which are relevant if the property is listed. These include questions regarding a local listed building consent order and heritage partnership agreements
- sustainable drainage systems affecting the property – important for newer properties
- known proposals for a new railway or monorail in the local authority’s area (this will include HS2)
- community infrastructure levy, which is relevant if a property is being developed as it is a potential planning charge. The levy is a tool for local authorities in England and Wales to help deliver infrastructure to support the development of their area. Development may be liable for a charge under the levy if the local planning authority has chosen to set a charge in its area. Where the levy applies, follow-up questions include whether a liability notice has been issued, and whether payment or part-payment has been made
- assets of community value (ACV) – whether the property has been nominated or listed as one. If a property is listed as an ACV, the property owner cannot dispose of it without allowing the local community group who listed it to make a bid to buy it on the open market. We blogged about the effect of a property being listed as an ACV in March this year
- public rights of way (replacing and extending the former questions on CON29O) – whether the local authority’s records show a public right of way which abuts or crosses the property
The revised CON29O form has new questions on:
- whether the area is a business improvement district or mineral safeguarding area, or subject to a local development order
- whether the property is subject to flood defence or land drainage consents or applications
- whether a statutory statement and map has been deposited by the property owner to protect the land from being used as a town or village green
These changes to local authority searches are not revolutionary by any means, but they will be a welcome addition. As always, ‘buyer beware’ is the key message when buying a property and the more information available the better.