Searches carried out when buying a property – Part 2

Searches carried out when buying a property – Part 2

Our new expert series “Searches that come with a purchase” aims to make the process of purchasing a property easier to understand and is split into four parts. Part Two focuses on the Environmental Report.

As part of the home-buying process your conveyancer will carry out multiple “searches” with the local authority and other parties. Searches are carried out to discover additional information about a property that often may not be obvious. They typically include aspects such as whether planning permission may be granted for a future development that would negatively impact your property, the quality of the ground on which your house is built or details of common drains and access rights.

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The searches should be completed and approved before you exchange contracts and legally commit yourself to purchasing the property, as they may highlight planning or structural issues that could either affect the value of the property, or result in additional costs further down the line.

Environmental Report

Homebuyers are often unaware that although the house they purchase may be in good condition, the land upon which it is built may not be. This is something the usual searches will not uncover. The local search will not reveal any landfill sites, waste disposal dumps or whether the land is at risk from contamination, toxic emissions, flooding, subsidence or radioactivity.

It has been found that there are over 250,000 sites, which have been filled, and that there are over 400,000 industrial sites, which are no longer in existence, which may have contaminated land. Many of these sites may have already been built on to provide housing. Landfill waste disposal and old industrial land are known as “brownfield” sites. The principle caveat emptor “the buyer beware” applies and if you purchase land that is contaminated, you may be liable to pay for the clean-up costs of the pollution created by former owners.

The Government has declared that 60% of all new houses to be built over the next decade must be built on brownfield sites (thousands already have been). Records exist that there are over 25,000 landfill or waste disposal sites and approximately 40,000 contaminating/polluting processes including discharges and storage of hazardous substances.

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It is estimated that 1% of all land in Britain is contaminated with pollutants. These are serious enough to warrant enquiry by anyone buying a new home particularly as there are increasing health and safety concerns associated with living on or near landfill sites or sources of contamination. If you purchase a property that is contaminated, it will prove very difficult to sell and you may also find that you will have to pay for the clean-up costs of the land.

As a result of increased computerisation, it is now possible to obtain details of the present and historical land use for properties in England and Wales. The environmental report provides site-specific data on environmental issues affecting residential property. The report contains information obtained from the Environment Agency, Coal Board, DETR, Ordinance Survey and other data providers.

It will provide information on whether the property you are intending to buy has been built on former landfill sites, waste sites or industrial or unstable land. It will also provide a risk assessment as to nearby sites that may release contamination and whether the land is an area affected by Radon gas, flooding landslip coal mining or subsidence. The report covers an area within a 500 metre radius of the property.

Should you have any concerns regarding the above and wish us to obtain an Environmental report on your property please let us know as soon as possible – the cost of this report is £41.50 plus VAT.


Read Part 1 – The Flood Report here:

Searches carried out when buying a property – Part 1

This article is part of our “Expert Advice” series and features advice from Aashim Dhand, Managing Director at PLS Solicitors. For more help get in contact with PLS here.

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