Legal Eagle column: Environmental searches explained

Charlene Shillingford is a Chartered Legal Executive at Neves Solicitors and believes that a successful conveyancing transaction requires building a good rapport with clients to walk them through the complexities of searches. Here she answers some frequently asked questions and explains the vital importance of environmental searches.

What is a conveyancing environmental search?

An environmental search surveys historical and current records of land to ascertain whether any past use is likely to have led to contamination.

A physical inspection of the land is not required for the production of the report.

The search is carried out with an environmental agency rather than The Environmental Agency.

How relevant are environmental issues?

Environmental issues are becoming more and more relevant in influencing purchasers, lenders and insurers’ decisions, as factors such as flooding, subsidence and land pollution are increasingly making headlines.

Many homes are built on or near land previously used for industrial purposes and the by-products may still pose a health hazard from contamination of the ground upon which the home is built.

Why is it important to have an environmental search?

Aside from the health hazard issues, the search is important because if the land is found to be contaminated and the person who caused the contamination cannot be found, then the local authority can look to the owner of the property to pay the cost of cleaning up the land and removing any contamination.

These costs can be very high. The search also confirms whether the property is at risk of flooding.

This is important to establish as this can have an adverse impact on insurance premiums, the ability to obtain a mortgage and the value of the property.

If a search reveals a high risk of flooding in the area, further enquiries should be made of prospective insurance companies prior to purchasing to ensure that buildings insurance can be obtained.

What if there is a risk of contamination?

Contact should be made with the Contaminated Land Officer at the local authority.

The Officer will hold details of any remedial work undertaken (if any) to make the land safe.

The planning and building control departments may also have records detailing how contamination had been managed to assist you in understanding the condition of the land.

You can Charlene at Neves Solicitors on 01908 304560.

 

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