12 July 2019 by Bradley Ali

Stop and search before buying a commercial property for development

Anyone who has bought a property whether commercial or residential will no doubt recall having a discussion or reading about the requirement to order a set of property searches at the outset of any purchase (freehold or leasehold). The cost of searches can vary depending on the type of transaction but they will generally represent an additional cost to any purchaser or prospective tenant on top of the legal fees (just like property taxes (e.g. stamp duty) and land registration fees) so they should always be taken into account when budgeting any purchase or lease.

The core set of searches are the local authority, water and drainage and environmental searches. If you’re about to commit to buy a property or take out a lease it is best to order all the relevant searches to avoid throwing your well earned cash at a property that could let you down.

If though you are a developer and buying a plot of land with the intention to demolish, redevelop or rearrange (rearrange in this context means to alter and re-route any of the underlying infrastructure) then you should also additionally get a set of “infrastructure searches”.

These searches should help to ensure your development ideas can be implemented effectively without any costly remediation works.  They will for example show you the location of any high pressure lines (e.g. gas or water), electricity, telecoms, third party wayleaves etc.

If you fail to get the searches and proceed with your development you unnecessarily expose yourself to the risk of being asked by the relevant authority or statutory undertaker to either knock down any building or construction or re-route any utility company lines or public infrastructure underneath your land at your own expense. If you are lucky the cost could be tens of thousands of pounds but could be considerably more depending on the project’s nature and scale.  Ordering the right searches is a preventable expense that could be the difference between a viable project and one that you should not have even started. Either way it’s a needless risk that ordering the right searches can protect you against in the first place.

For advice about taking on a commercial property please contact Bradley Ali (bradleyali@boltburdon.co.uk) in our commercial property team here at Bolt Burdon.


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