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Commercial Property Searches – What are they?

The process of buying a commercial property involves having a number of professional searches carried out. Here, we explain what the different searches are that you might need to consider when buying a property.

The term “searches” covers a range of enquiries that we send to different bodies will recommend are carried out at an early stage of a property transaction (often referred to as “pre contract enquiries). These may vary depending upon location and there may be some technical searches that may or not be relevant.

It is important that your lawyer understands which searches are relevant to your property and what you propose to do with it (whether just to occupy it, develop it or otherwise). They can explain to you what the searches do and don’t cover, and what options may be open to you depending on the results, which could influence your decision to buy or lease the property.

The searches could include:

Local Land Charges Search

  • Reveals any conditions which may be attached to planning permissions relating to the property
  • Any planning enforcement orders which may exist
  • Confirms if there are any registered financial charges over the property – perhaps for emergency work carried out in the past for which payment hasn’t yet been made.

Local Authority Search

  • Reveals important information in relation to the Property being searched and its immediate surroundings
  • Whether the road on which the property fronts is “adopted” i.e. maintained at public expense or privately maintained
  • Details of any planning consents applied for granted or refused including the permitted use of the property
  • Whether the property is a listed building or in a conservation area
  • Building regulations applied for and granted
  • Proposed road schemes

Commons Registration Search

  • A search at the local authority to check the property is not registered as common land or part of a village green.

Mining Search

  • A search to check whether the property may be affected by coal mining activity which may result in subsidence.

Drainage & Water Search

  • Confirms whether the property is connected to a mains water supply
  • Indicates whether foul and surface water drains into a public sewer
  • Will establish whether the property is served by a private sewerage system
  • Reveals whether there is a consent to discharge trade effluent

Environmental Search

  • a report assessing environmental factors which may affect the property i.e. contamination, flooding and subsidence on the land where the property is situated. A lender if you are funding the purchase with a loan will insist on such a report. It is also important if you are thinking of changing the current use of the property or wish to redevelop the site.
  • An occupier or an owner of a legal interest in contaminated land can be asked to pay for the clean-up of any contamination of that land or property even though they did not cause the pollution and this can be a very expensive liability depending on the type and level of contamination.

Chancel Repairs Check

A check can be initiated to establish whether the property lies within a parish which carries a risk of liability to contribute towards the cost of repairs to the chancel of the local church. Such liability can in certain situations have a serious impact on the property’s title, value and marketability. More detailed searches can be carried out and it is possible to arrange insurance cover if a potential risk is identified.