Environmental Issues When Buying Property

05 June 2017

When you're buying a new home, you may not consider that there are potential risks and dangers in and around the land on which the house stands. If there are potential health risks or costly problems that aren't visible at the property, you will want to know about these before you proceed to with the purchase.

If you're using a Conveyancer to purchase the property, it is likely they will recommend getting 'searches' relating to the property.

If you are getting a mortgage to buy the property, the mortgage lender will usually require all necessary searches to be carried out. Your Conveyancer is under a duty to report any issues to the lender. If there are serious concerns the lender may refuse to proceed with the mortgage.

If you are not using a Conveyancer or getting a mortgage, it is still a good idea to obtain searches, especially if you're planning to buy in an area you are unfamiliar with. If there is a potential issue it may affect the future saleability of the property, while serious issues may decrease its value.

There are several searches that you can obtain, including a specific Environmental Search, but most will have an environmental aspect. These searches should help you to identify if there is a potential health risk or environmental risk which might not be obvious when viewing the property.

The searches don't usually involve a property visit but provide an evaluation using information about the utilities, local records, previous uses of the land, recent tests, the local landscape and nearby potential sources of contamination, for example landfill sites or sewage works.

The searches can provide you with an assessment on a vast array of potential issues, including:

  • Flood risks – could there be coastal, river, surface water or internal flooding?
  • Water quality – does the water supply meet current standards?
  • Coal or other mining activity – has there been any and are there implications?
  • Nearby industrial activity – are there nearby sewage treatment plants, nuclear power stations, landfill sites, petrol stations, or factories using hazardous chemicals?
  • Natural hazards – is there nearby potential for coastal erosion, landslide, or falling rocks?
  • Subsidence – has this occurred in the area?
  • Contaminated land – is the land known to be 'contaminated'?
  • Pollution levels – does the air quality meet current standards?
  • Radon gas – is the land known to emit Radon gas?

Discovering that your dream home has any one of the above issues may be daunting, but if you don't investigate before purchasing then you risk uncovering problems later on – by which point it may be too late to withdraw your offer.

The cost of the searches can vary and in some cases these can take some time to compile. Also the searches only provide a risk assessment and general overview of local issues. So if anything is revealed it's possible you will need to obtain in-depth searches and investigations to uncover the full extent of any issues.

Your Conveyancer will provide you with a report on the completed searches and will let you know if there is anything to be concerned about. They may advise you of any action you can take or further investigations you may require. You can then make an informed decision about whether you wish to proceed with the purchase.

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