A local authority search is one of the key searches that conveyancers should undertake on a property. It consists of information on behalf of the local council regarding the property, the local area and any future planned developments.
Local Authority Searches can be either conducted by the relevant council or a registered agent can access the council's records to retrieve the information themselves. Local Authority Searches consists of two elements an LLC1, a search of the Local Land Charges Registers, and a Con29 which is a set of standard enquiries recommended by the Law Society to reveal vital information that could impact the purchaser's decision.
A Local Land Charges Register is maintained, under law, by every local authority in England and Wales following the Land Charges Act of 1925. The LLC Register contains a record of all charges registered against a property within the local borough including any financial charges, planning agreements, enforcement notices, aviation, listed buildings and light obstructions notices.
All of these and many more entries place a restriction on the property that the owner would be liable for and could impact the purchaser both financially or how you can use the property or what changes can be made to it.
The second part of a local authority search is known as a Con29 and was introduced over 50 years ago to assist the home buyer in having clarification on information that may influence their purchasing decision. The CON29 itself consists of two forms CON29 and CON29O (optional enquires) which is an additional set of enquiries that can be requested to cover more niche request that might not be relevant to all properties such as public rights of way or village green enquires.
The CON29 has had several revisions overtime to keep up with changing requirements and developments. The standard set of CON29 enquiries cover:
In 2016, there was three new enquires added to the standard CON29 these related to Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Assets of Community Value.
CON29O, sometimes referred to as CON29 part 2, as mentioned previously consists of a wider range of enquires that would only be relevant in certain locations or apply to certain types of properties and therefore aren't regarded as standard. An example enquiry would be whether the property is within a designated National Park, this wouldn't be relevant to properties within the centre of London but would for those bordering the Lake District.
There are two ways in which a local authority search can be conducted. Conveyancers can request the information directly from the local council, and their employees will conduct the research and provide the information. This is known as an official search as it comes directly from the council.
The other method is by contacting an independent search agency that sends one of their researchers to the council archives and records department to conduct, retrieving the information themselves — this known as a personal or regulated local authority search. Personal searches, sometimes referred to as regulated searches, have access to the exact same information as council employees.
When choosing a personal search agent, it is advised to check the firm's accreditation. You should expect them to adhere to the Council of Property Search organisation code of conduct as well as The Property Ombusden both which are both independent organisations that provide additional protection to the consumer and will hold their members accountable to high standards of service.
The length of time it takes to get the results back of Local Authority Search can vary depending on the council. There is no national standard procedure as to how long it should take for a council to complete a request, and it heavily depends on the chosen councils resources. Some councils are able to process requests within a few days, but on average across England and Wales it is usually a few weeks. It is not uncommon though for official searches to take up to 8 weeks during busy periods. In comparison, Personal Searches tend to take just a few days as the agencies have dedicated resource to conduct the searches and wish to offer a better service than councils in order to win more business.
Also, once the initial results are in they maybe be further questions raised by the conveyancers based on the information they have that ben given which can add to the time it takes for the purchaser to receive the final report.
Currently, there is a project being undertaken to digitise the 384 LLC Registers and transfer ownership to the HM Land Registry. This project has been running for over two years and progress has been slow due to the varying formats and complexity of the information held by the local authorities. The goal is to digitise all registers so the data can be easily accessed online, dramatically speeding up the process.
Cost for official searches can vary across the country, with prices ranging from £50 - £300 while personal searches tend to be more consistent ranging from £75 - £150. It also quite common for Local Authority Searches to be part of a package along with environmental searches, water and drainage in which case there is often a discount on the individual prices.