When buying a house there are a number of searches that Solicitors carry out with external bodies and organisations. Examples of these are;
A Local Search with the Local Authority to see if, amongst other things, the roads are adopted, whether there have been any planning consents or building regulation approvals obtained or if the property is affected by any public rights of way.
A Water/Drainage Search with the local Water Authority to ascertain whether or not the property is connected to mains drains for foul and surface water, if it has a water supply and if the public drains have possibly been built over.
Environmental search organisations are also asked to check whether or not the property is built on potentially contaminated land or if there are any ground subsidence issues.
Flood search companies are contacted to seek advice as to whether or not the property is subject to flooding from sea, river or most common surface water.
There are certain areas, (the Black Country included) that require a Coal Mining search to be carried out. This certainly causes huge problems, if a shaft or shafts are found within 20 metres of the boundary of the property. In these circumstances some lenders may refuse to lend, unless specific measures can be shown to have been carried out to the mine shafts, such as capping and grouting and even then they may still not be considered acceptable for lending purposes and undoubtedly their presence alone may have an effect on future saleability for a prospective buyer. If there are untreated shafts, valuers may also reduce the value of the property by 25% to 30% or possibly even more in order to attract cash investors who purchase properties for the rental income, not capital appreciation.
If the property has been in the same ownership for many years, and where there is no recent mining search available, we would advise prospective sellers and local estate agents that, before they even embark on selling the property, they allow us to check whether or not it is in a mining area, by obtaining a search on their behalf. The current charge by the Coal Authority for a mining search is £39.00 including VAT.
Obtaining a Coal Authority Search from the outset can ensure that, those property owners who believe their property to be producing a certain sale figure take a realistic view, if shafts or adits are revealed. It also prevents chains of transactions falling through, when the buyers Solicitor eventually carries out the search, which can often be some weeks into the sale process. By that time other searches will have been done, mortgage valuation and survey fees paid and the investigation of the title to the property commenced. The cost of a chain of transactions falling through is considerable and can cause frustration and distress to all involved in the chain, not just the buyers of the property affected.
If a shaft or shafts are revealed it is not automatically the end of the transaction. For a further fee (which currently at the time of writing is £120 including VAT) the Coal Authority will produce a Mine Interpretive Report. This report indicates whether or not the property or the garden is likely to be affected if the shaft collapsed.
It has to be remembered that the search is in fact 20 metres from each boundary not 20 metres from the property. Therefore, properties with large gardens may have a shaft outside the boundary line which may have no affect at all. If a clear Interpretive Report is obtained and house insurance available then most lenders will still lend at the market value.
A simple change, in what is the usual process, has, in the past, saved clients and others in the chain hundreds of pounds and a considerable amount of heartache. This process will leave everyone with realistic aims and ambitions going forward.
Thursfields Solicitors offer a full range of property services throughout their branches
Should you require any further information on our Mine Search Initiative, or any other property related matter, then please contact the Residential Property Team at your local Thursfields office.