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These are standard enquiries which the buyer’s legal adviser makes of the District or County Council to check all facts concerning the property, the services, and local authority plans for the area. A search fee is payable and when the market is busy, the searches may take a little while to come through. In such circumstances, a seller would be advised to get his own conveyancer to lodge these enquiries initially and then to pass them over to the purchaser’s legal adviser when the time comes.

Searches may on occasion be undertaken personally, which can be very much quicker – though the Local Authority do not then warrant the replies – or a contract may be exchanged subject to satisfactory outcome of the searches.

Increasingly, Councils are installing information technology which will allow searches to be automated. This is an important aspect of the National Land Information Service initiative currently being pioneered in the Bristol area.

When Home Information Packs are introduced – probably by the end of the first decade – the standard searches and replies will be included. Once the information is available electronically on-line the potential delays should cease to be a problem though there is no likelihood that the data will be free of charge. For many busy Local Authorities the search fees are a useful source of additional income.

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