Commercial property searches

Commercial Property Searches

It is ever more prudent to carry out property searches when the property in question will be your business premises and the information revealed could prevent you using those premises for your intended purposes, therefore putting the success of your business at risk.

Usually, when dealing with a purchase, the buyer’s solicitor will submit 3 searches as standard – a Local Authority and Land Charges Search, a Drainage and Water search and an Environmental Search. Additional searches such as those in relation to highways, flood risk, and utility connections might also be appropriate depending on the location and the type of property involved.

What do the searches cover?

A ‘Local Search’ is actually a combination of 2 separate searches carried out by the local council in which the property is located. Firstly, the local land charges register shows matters such as compulsory purchase orders, Tree Preservation Orders, planning enforcement notices and financial charges registered against a property.

The second element is the local authority search which reveals important information about a property, such as planning permissions and building regulation consents, proposals for road schemes and environmental and pollution notices. Any adverse findings in these matters could have a detrimental effect on the value of the property or even mean that the property cannot be used for the purpose you intend.

An environmental search is used to establish the risk of land being contaminated, by collating information from regulatory bodies and a review of current and historic land uses. While such a search does not include a site visit or testing of soil or groundwater samples it does provide useful information which could prompt the need for further investigation. If a local authority determines that land is contaminated, and the party who caused the contamination cannot be found, the current owner or occupier of the land may be required to remedy the contamination. This can be an expensive process, so it is important to assess the risk of land being contaminated before committing to buy a property.

A drainage and water search provides information as to the location of the nearest public water main and public drainage system to the property. It will also confirm whether or not the property is connected to the mains water supply and drainage system and whether there are any public water pipes or sewers within the property boundary. If the search reveals the property is not connected to the mains public system then further investigations can be carried out via questions raised with the seller and their solicitor. If there is a public drain or sewer within a property boundary then further extensions or additions to the business premises may need consent from the water authority before they can take place.