Local authority search: what is it?

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Local authority search: what is it?

Most people buying property will need to get a local authority search – especially to get a mortgage. There are two different types – the kind you get from your local council, and the kind you get from private search companies.

Either way, most people leave this bit to their solicitor or conveyancer to arrange. But here’s how they work.

As the name suggests, the Council Local Search is up to your local council. It has two parts: the Local Land Charges Certificate of Search (LLC1) and Enquiries of the Local Authority (CON29). (Don’t worry – we’ll explain what those are…)

The other one (Regulated Local Search) is the kind you get from private companies. It combines information from the Local Land Charges Register and the CON29 into a single report. Private search companies will also look for any previous searches – not just on your property, but on neighbouring ones too. And they often draw on other sources of data and research, where the council’s own data seems wrong.

Most mortgage lenders now accept both types, and conveyancers use both equally. According to recent independent research by Ipsos MORI, 82% of firms rate the accuracy of Council Local Searches as excellent or very good – and it’s exactly the same for Regulated Local Searches.

Also, 23% of firms ordered their searches direct from the local council – while 39% used private search companies, and 35% used a mix of both.

The LLC1 Search is a search of something called the Local Land Charges Register. A search can turn up many things, most importantly any ‘financial charges’ on the property. They could be old mortgages or other unpaid debts associated with the property, like bank loans. Once you buy it, you’re responsible for them. So it’s obviously essential to make sure there aren’t any, or that the seller deals with them before you complete the sale.

Every council used to keep its own register, but now there’s just one central register that lives at the Land Registry. Anyone has the right to search the register, but most people leave that to their solicitor or conveyancer.

The CON29 is a standard set of questions set by the government, the Law Society and the Local Government Association. A search of the CON29 could turn up things to do with planning or building control, nearby road and rail schemes, whether the council’s responsible for looking after the roads and footpaths, and so on.

What do they cost?

Councils set their own fees for both the LLC1 and the CON29. Prices vary wildly. It can cost anything from £44 at one council to £350 at another.

Private search companies normally have a standard or fixed price for the Regulated Local Search. They range from around £75 to £120.

How long does it take?

Again, it depends who you use.

Councils can take anything from a few hours to 10 weeks or more (if you’re unlucky).

As private search companies often rely on data from councils to do their searches, there’s no telling how long those could take either. The average is around 10 days, but they can take anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks.

What happens if they miss something?

The Council LLC1 & CON29 is covered by Local Authority Insurance. Though again, this varies from council to council.

Companies that do Regulated Searches have to sign up to something called the Search Code, which is monitored and enforced by The Property Codes Compliance Board (who are completely independent).

Under the code, companies need have at least £2 million of professional indemnity insurance cover (though many have £10 million). On top of that, they have to offer extra insurance cover, called specialist search insurance, which covers any mistakes or oversights.

If they miss something that ends up costing you money, the first step is to complain to the search company. If that doesn’t get you what you want, you can go to the Property Ombudsman scheme, which covers companies who sign up to the Search Code.

In a nutshell

If you’re buying a property in the UK, chances are you’ll need to get a local authority search. There are two kinds – one comes from your local council, the other from private companies. Whichever you choose, your solicitor or conveyancer can arrange it for you. Prices depend on who you use, which search you choose and (to some extent) where you live.

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