Landlords and Local Searches

Landlords Property Guide While Local Searches are primarily a tenant's responsibility, it is still important to be fully aware of them, as a landlord. Learn everything you need to know about the various local searches that are required to complete a commercial property tansaction.

Local Searches on Commercial Properties

Although local searches are usually a tenant’s responsibility, some proactive landlords undertake them at their cost, in order to achieve a quicker and more efficient letting process. The searches should be no more than three months old as interested parties will not rely on documents that are outdated. Providing up to date searches may make your commercial property more attractive to prospective tenants. Given the cost of producing this pack, it may be worthwhile as this is usually a very small percentage of the overall letting proceeds.

These searches reveal what has and what may happen to the particular property and the surrounding area. The majority of transactions in commercial properties will require local searches to be carried out as part of the conveyancing process. The main purpose of the Searches is to look into any plans that may affect the property and to ensure there will be no unpleasant surprises and hidden-costs after the property has been occupied.r

The searches may include research, which details planning applications that may be relevant to the property either current or historic, building control history, nearby road schemes and motorways, developments and contaminated land etc.

A solicitor acting on your behalf will apply to the local council for these searches. The process typically takes around two to three weeks (although some local councils may take longer). You can expedite these searches at extra additional cost by instructing an agent to carry out a personal search.

You may wish to undertake other searches to cover eventualities that may affect potential tenants and eliminate doubt. These could make your commercial property more attractive to potential tenants.

Radon Gas Search

This is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that emanates out of rocks below the surface. High levels are known to cause cancer. How many people have heard of Radon Gas Search? Please refer to the HPA (Health Protection Agency) Radon map, which indicates the known areas and those at risk. Special devices are required to measure the radon gas levels. These areas are mainly the South East Midlands and the South West of the country. You may wish to seek advice or professional assistance to clarify any risk.

Flood Assessment Search

The risk assessments are available for flooding in your area and worth applying for, as you may be unable to insure your property or business if you are within a flood zone. The Environmental Agency updates the records regularly and a search should reveal whether the property is at risk. Flash floods have been phenomena of last decade but information is available of where these have occurred.

Chancel Liability Search and potential risk

This is a little known piece of law and many professionals may be unaware of potential liabilities.

This search is undertaken in order to identify whether the property that you are about to buy may have a Chancel Repair Liability in favour of the local Parish Church. This is a potential liability and you could be committed to pay for repairs to a parish church. The tax was initiated in medieval times where land formerly owned by the Church was assessed to raise money for the local rector. When the property was sold or transferred, the new owner took on the obligation attached to that land. This liability can affect any properties that are located within a parish and there could be a risk of a Chancel Repair Liability being called upon. Given the potential liability, undertaking of this search is strongly recommended to remove any uncertainty and unpleasant surprises. This tax was recommended for elimination by the Law Commission in 1985 but was rejected by the Government at the time.

Chancel Repair Liability Case Study: A couple, Andrew and Gail Wallbank were forced to pay in excess of £400,000 towards the repairs of St John the Baptist church in Aston Cantlow. This sum included court costs after losing a 20 year legal battle. It turned out that this 16th century agreement was still enforceable, which the couple had no idea about.

Your solicitor will be able to undertake local searches. The local authority cost of the searches will be charged at between £200 to £400 approx (depending on which local council provides the service). The Chancel Liability Search is not standard. The cost of providing this search is approximately £100 to £150.


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